By specialized is meant flowers that are incapable of self-pollenization.
The common apple or pear blossom is a regular, simple and perfect flower. The stamens surround a single central pistil; the anthers, however, mature before the stigma develops, so pollen of a blossom will have no effect should it fall upon the stigma of the same flowers. It is not specialized to the extent of being dependent upon a certain insect, but welcomes all kinds of bees.
Alighting in the center of the blossom, the bee commences to drain the base of nectar; as he turns this way and that, in order to get all of it, the anthers dust him well with pollen and off he flies to the next flower, perhaps one in which the stigma is ripened; as he lands in the center some of the precious pollen is left on its sticky surface and his mission, as far as the blossom is concerned, is completed.
Bluets, the tiny blue and white flowers that grow so very abundantly in dry fields, have an interesting lesson to teach us concerning plant ways. It is an excellent example of a "dimorphic" plant, - one having two kinds of flowers. These different flowers do not grow on the same plant, nor usually in the same clump. The little pictures on the plate will serve to show the different forms of the flowers, better than I can describe them. Examine one little clump carefully and you will find four little yellow anthers in a slight enlargement near the mouth of the corolla tube, and almost blocking it; further examination of this flower will disclose a short pistil with a forked stigma in the lower part of the tube. Carefully look over other clumps and you find some in which the divided stigma will appear at the throat, in place of the Anthers found in the first instance. You will also notice that the corolla tube, in this last instance, contracts a little just above the base; just above this contraction we will find the four anthers.
The anthers and stigma in each flower mature at the same time, yet the flower cannot fertilize itself; the pollen grains of anthers at the top of the tube, are larger than those in anthers located near the base. The pollen from the high anthers will not quicken the seed of a low pistil, neither will that of a low anther accomplish this result with a high pil-til.
Thus it is absolutely necessary that the life-giving germs be carried not only from one flower to another, but usually from one clump to another. Bees and small butterflies commonly visit bluets, the bees, with their larger tongues, being the most serviceable; as he sips the nectar from the cup, if a high-anthered one, he gets pollen on his tongue near the face; if a low-anthered flower, the pollen is attached near the tip of the tongue. In either case it will be left at the door of the first flower he visits of the opposite kind.
Nearly any flower that we may chance to pick will have its story to tell to the sharp-eyed, - more interesting than fiction can relate, because they are truths. We may learn how the Mountain Laurel has its pollen on tiny springs waiting to clap it at the proper moment on the body of a visiting insect. The milkweed will show us how its pollen masses are connected in pairs; how the legs of butterflies and bees become caught in the sharp angle of this connecting link; how the pollen masses are torn from their sheaths and carried to another blossom, a reverse operation freeing the insect from the valuable part of his burden and leaving it at its proper destination; and, alas, how many insects, not strong enough to free themselves, perish in this trap.
The Orchids, wonderful creations, and the most highly specialized of all our flowers, each being adapted almost exclusively to a certain species of insect, will show us their ingenious methods of plastering their pollen masses to the eyes or the tongues of their visitors.
This study of the reproduction of plants offers a very wide field for investigation, a field much different from the old botanist, concerned only in the dissection of specimens. It calls for study in the field, a study of Life, a study that is worth while.