What Makes Flowers So Colorful?

While taking a stroll in a park or a garden, the one thing that never ceases to amaze us is the spectacular range of colorful flowers lined up in perfect rows, their gleaming colors entrancing us, as if they were celebrating in a state of jubilation. Now, during any of your long, satisfying gazes at the beauty of flowers, have you ever wondered where flowers get their color? Or why they are colored in the first place?

Where Do Flowers Get Their Color?

In one of our previous posts, we’ve already discussed the different shades of green that can be seen in the leaves of plants and trees, now let’s take a look at how flowers get their vibrant colors.

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The color of a flower is decided by the hereditary genome of the plant to which it belongs; therefore, the color of the flowers of a plant is decided long before the flowers are born. There are certain pigments that cause particular colors. For example, colors like red, purple, blue and pink are produced due to the presence of compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins belong to a class of flavanoids, and are the most important plant pigments for flower coloration. There are other pigments too, like carotenoids, which impart color to carrots and tomatoes, as well as chlorophyll, which is the most common pigment found in plants that provides their green color.

Why Are Flowers Colored?

flower and bee

Credit: zens/Shutterstock

The colors of flowers are not just for humans to enjoy, but actually serve far more significant purposes. Flowers need to reproduce, and for those plants that depend on reproduction through pollination, colors are very important. Brightly colored flowers attract insects and bees, which are the largest contributors to plants’ reproduction, as they can carry pollen to other plants. Thus, flowers are brightly colored to attract insects.

Elaborately colored flowers attract insects to land on them, and while these insects are busy sucking honey or other juices from the flower, some of the flower’s pollen will stick to their feet. Now, when the same insects sits on some other flower, the pollen that they had gathered (quite unwittingly) from the former will spread on these new flowers. Lo and behold, pollination takes place and the circle of flowering life continues!

flower meme

There are certain implications when pollination is carried out using these external agents. Plants that pollinate with the help of insects have brightly colored pigments and taste better too; this is in contrast to plants that are pollinated by the help of wind, as they typically have dull pigments and don’t taste as good to insects passing by.

So, as it turns out, humans are not the only ones who engage in beauty-enhancing activities to impress and lure the opposite sex – plants do it too! The bright, fancy, and elaborate coloring of flowers is just as good as any flashy outfit for humans when it comes to alluring the eye of possible partners (and pollinators)!

References

  1. Harvard Forest
  2. Plant and Soil Science – University of Vermont
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