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Self Pollination (Viticulture 101)

Do you know….

Grape vines self-pollinate, they have both male and female reproductive characteristics and don’t need bees for pollination.

A notable exception to the rule. But what many people don’t know is that flowering grape vines have the most delicious faint fragrance. Unworldly at dawn on a still morning.

Hawkshead Vineyard - Flowering

The University of British Columbia scientists have traced the fragrant scent of grapevine flowers to pollen grains stored in the anthers, contrary to common perception that petals alone produce perfume. They identified a gene that produces and regulates the fragrance from the vines' tiny clusters of green blossoms.

"This was a surprise in fundamental plant biology," says Joerg Bohlmann, a Distinguished University Scholar and a professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories. "This discovery gives us strong clues to the origin and evolution of fragrant flowers.”

Scientists believe plants have evolved to produce perfume in order to attract specific types of pollinators while fending off herbivores and pathogens. Flowers such as Roses for example, rely on their petals to produce perfume and attract insects. “But grape flower fragrance serves more as a defence mechanism to protect their male reproductive tissues from predatory insects," says Bohlmann. The team also found that the emission of perfume is light-dependent and is strongest at dawn, possibly to coincide with pollination and predation activities. Well worth getting out of bed for at first light.

Hawkshead Vineyard Bees

This doesn’t mean that bees are not vital to the wine grape industry. In fact, bees are still extremely important to us. Grape vines may not need bees for pollination, but our cover crops and surrounding plants do. Every year a cover crop is planted in our vineyard. This crop comprises many different plants. Those varieties deliver different micro-nutrients that the grape vines might need and also are very important for soil health after the previous growing season. Spending a lot of time working amongst the vines and observing, seeing, smelling and listening ( hear the buzzing bees & insects or the lark nesting in the neighbours meadow) brings us closer to understand and cherish the Natural World around us. 

Ulrike

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