The Language of Flowers: Understanding Pollination Ecology

Rebecca McMackin, Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design

April 2023

The vast majority of plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. From bees, to butterflies, to birds and bats, these pollinator partners shaped the evolution of flowers, giving us so much of the beauty we appreciate today. However, these exciting dynamics, in which a flower’s pollen is carried to a stigma, are fraught with trickery, bribery, thievery, and wild sexual acrobatics. Join Rebecca McMackin to learn the essentials of pollination ecology. Why do plants have flowers? How did they evolve? Why are they so pretty and smell so good to us, non-pollinating primates? By the end of the lecture, you will be able to “read” flowers and come to know the true desires of the organisms you cultivate.

Rebecca McMackin is an ecologically obsessed horticulturist and garden designer. Currently a 2023 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, she formerly served as the Director of Horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Her writing on landscape design has been published by and featured in the New York Times, the Landscape Institute and on NPR.