How flowers get their color?

  Flowers are bright in color so they can attract bees, birds, and insects to help them reproduce. The bright colors and sweet pollen will coax the bees and birds to land on the plant. Some of the pollen will stick to their feet. When they land on another flower, some of that pollen will be deposited and pollination occurs.

Flowers have male parts, called stamens, that are loaded with pollen. Flowers also have female parts, called stigmas, that are receptive to pollen from another plant of the same kind or species.

Flowers can’t move. They rely on creatures, mostly insects, to move their pollen for them. The flowers produce the sweet sugar nectar that attracts the bees. Fruit trees, as well as flowers, need pollination. Our local Tomah area cranberry growers rely on bees to pollinate the plants in the bogs.

Flowers produce pigments that are easy to make. The pigment anthocyanin  will give reds, pinks, blues, and purples. Carotenoid pigments yield yellows, reds, and oranges. Chlorophyll pigments furnish all the green in the foliage. The pigment instructions are carried in the genes of the plant. The exact color is associated with the pH or acidity of the pigment.

Color is also affected by temperature, climate, soil conditions, growing season, rainfall, winds, and plant nutrition.

The brightly colored flower petals are an advertisement to insects to come over for a visit. That’s what the flower has in mind. We humans soak in the color and simply enjoy the beauty. Flowers evoke feelings of warmth, love, and sympathy.

Some flowers are poisonous. Larkspur, or delphinium, can really upset the stomach if ingested, and can cause severe skin irritation. Larkspur is very bad for cattle.

Lily of the Valley laced the bouquet of Catherine Middleton when she married Prince William in April, 2011. All parts of the Lily of the Valley are poisonous. The red berries, to which children are attracted, are bad news if ingested. Severe abdominal cramps, vomiting, and slowed heart rate can result.

Horticulturist are working on altering flower color. A plant geneticist in Maryland has made a bright blue rose. He extracted a precise among of pigment from one plant and implanted it in another.

Obviously, he does not adhere to the doggerel poem “Roses are red, violets are blue….”


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