Wimbledon approaches, and with it the season of strawberries! We’ve planted ours out and have begun to enjoy the first of the crop. We’re hoping the real flush will coincide with another Andy Murray victory in a few weeks!
Because we’re so used to buying fruit and veg from the supermarket, it’s easy to forget they’re as much part of the food chain as any other plant or animal in nature. Just as foxes and snakes compete with each other for rabbits to prey on, different animals fight for strawberries. For us strawberry growers, that competition comes in the form of slugs! People have found new ways to fight these rivals – using salt, raised beds, and pesticides (pest killers).
Strawberries pollinate in a similar way to other plants and trees, with the help of the wind or an insect. Once the petals drop away, the fertilised flower swells into fruit. Around early June they begin to ripen into red strawberries. Each fruit is studded with seeds. After fruit has passed through an animal’s body the seeds return to the earth and start to grow.
An excellent, fruit-packed dessert – perfect for eating during tennis – is Eton Mess. Follow this very simple recipe of crushed-up meringues, strawberries and cream – though at Storm, we also like to throw in ice cream, mint and raspberries to make it extra refreshing!
Wimbledon’s just finished, the sun has finally come out, the school year is winding down, and here at Storm we’ve even been out on the hammock.
But summer isn’t all fun, as a lot of people suffer from hay fever. This means runny noses, itchy eyes and a lot of sneezing. Aitchoo!
Although the flowers look lovely at this time of year, they are the cause of this discomfort, along with grasses and some trees. Why? Because spring and summer is the time for pollination. This is where the pollen on the male part of the plant (the stamen) lands on the female part (the stigma) in order to fertilise it. Sometimes plants can pollinate themselves, but stronger plants are produced when the pollen of one plant is transferred to another.
But how does it get there? Well, sometimes bees carry the pollen from one plant to another. So when you spot a bee this summer, it’s possible that it’s off to pollinate a plant. But the wind also carries the pollen, and so the air is full of it in summer.
If someone suffers from hay fever, it’s because they’re allergic to pollen. So when they breathe a load of it in, it can make them sneeze and generally feel rubbish. Luckily, the pollination season doesn’t last very long and sufferers can take medication to help them.
So next time you look out the window this summer, imagine all the tiny pollen in the air. And if you suffer from hayfever, remember it’s not long until summers’s over!
From Life Cycle of Plants, one of the activities in Science by Storm