What Is Nectar: Why Do Plants Produce Nectar

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By Mary Ellen Ellis

The Greek gods supposedly ate ambrosia and drank nectar, and hummingbirds drink nectar, but what exactly is it? If you’ve ever wondered what nectar is, and if you can get some out of your garden, you’re not alone.

What is Nectar?

Nectar is a sweet liquid produced by plants. It is especially produced by flowers on flowering plants. Nectar is very sweet and this is why butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, and other animals slurp it up. It gives them a good source of energy and calories. Bees collect nectar to turn into honey.

Nectar is more than just sweet, though. It is also rich in vitamins, salts, oils, and other nutrients. This sweet, nutritious liquid is produced by glands in a plant called the nectaries. Depending on the plant species, the nectaries may be located on different parts of the flower, including the petals, pistils, and stamen.

Why Do Plants Produce Nectar, and What Does Nectar Do?

It’s exactly because this sweet liquid is so attractive to some insects, birds, and mammals that plants produce nectar at all. It may provide these animals with a food source, but what nectar rich plants are up to is tempting them to aid in pollination. For plants to reproduce, they need to get pollen from one flower to another, but plants don’t move.

The nectar attracts a pollinator, like a butterfly. While feeding, pollen sticks to the butterfly. At the next flower some of this pollen is transferred. The pollinator is just out for a meal, but is unwittingly helping the plant procreate.

Plants to Attract Pollinators

Growing plants for nectar is rewarding because you provide natural sources of food for pollinators like butterflies and bees. Some plants are better than others for nectar production:

Bees

To attract bees, try:

Butterflies

Butterflies love the following nectar rich plants:

Hummingbirds

For hummingbirds, try planting:

By growing plants for nectar, you can enjoy seeing more butterflies and hummingbirds in your garden, but you also support these vital pollinators.

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