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Word of the Week: Spur

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Spur [spur] (botany noun): A tubular projection of tissue on different plant organs. The most common usage of the term in botany refers to nectar spurs in flowers.

Nectar spurs can project from a flower’s sepals 1 petals 2 or hypanthium 3 and contain the glands that secrete nectar, called nectaries.

The presence of nectar spurs in certain plants has been associated with evolutionary processes like coevolution and pollinator shifts. Even the variation in nectar spur length has been associated with the changes in lengths of the organs on the primary pollinators of the plants; whether it’s the tongues of moths, the proboscides of bees, or the beaks of hummingbirds.

Wild Columbine, also known as Eastern Red Columbine or Canadian Columbine, is a spring ephemeral that has a long and showy red nectar spur at the base of each of its 5 yellow petals. Because of its long nectar spurs, this woodland flower is a favourite source of nectar for returning Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. A wide range of species of native bees, bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, and moths will also enjoy Wild Columbine Nectar.

On your next spring visit to High Park, keep an eye out for Wild Columbine!

  1. Sepal- A part of a plant, shaped like a leaf, that lies at the base of a flower
  2. Petal- One of the often brightly colored parts of a flower immediately surrounding the reproductive organs
  3. Hypanthium- A floral structure consisting of the bases of the sepals, petals, and stamens fused together
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