Ever imagined how flowers without colours would be? Would they be still so important and precious to us?
The way we function, the way we co-exist, the way we survive; everything has a scientific reason to it. Similarly, the colour of each flower has a scientific reason for it. Why is rose red? Why is sunflower yellow? The real question is where do flowers get their colour from?
Before we move onto find out how and why do flowers have colours, let’s talk about the component responsible for the colour. The original colour of the flowers such as their red, yellow and pink, is found in pigments that exist at the hereditary level in a flower. Let’s learn some terms to understand the concept further –
Anthocyanins – Anthocyanin's are pink, blue, red and purple colour pigments that come under the class of chemicals called flavonoids.
Flavonoid – It is a large class of plant pigments responsible for colour in a plant.
Chlorophyll – All the green in plants’ leaves is because of this pigment.
What Causes Colours in Flowers?
The colour of a flower is developed on the plant’s genetic genome. But what decides the plant should have a bright colour and not some dull one? The colour of the flower is bright in order to help the plant reproduce with the help of birds, bees and other insects. If a flower is dull in colour, it won’t attract the bees, hence the plant will depend solely on wind for pollination. The problem here is that if pollination occurs through wind and air, the pigments of the plant tend to be dull and the fruit bad-tasting.
The colour of the plant attracts bees so that they can help in pollination.
If the anthocyanin did not take care of the pigments and the colour at the genetic level, all of this wouldn’t have been possible. Natural pollination through bees and insects is the reason flowers have pollens at the surface.
Why do flowers have a scent?
The chemicals responsible for the scent in flowers are called essential oils that are produced in their petals. Now, one may assume that all flowers smell sweet, but this is not the case. While some flowers have the most tempting or even neutral scent to them, there are some that smell not so good. A good example is titan arum which is a huge flower found in Sumatra. It smells like a dead body of an animal. Weird, isn’t it? The reason it smells so bad is that it depends on insects and dung flies for pollination. The sweet smell of flowers like roses, lilies, carnations, etc. plays a huge role in attracting birds, moths, and bees for pollination. For instance, the flowers that have a musty odour are preferred by bats.
Coevolution – When two or more species adapt to each other’s traits, coevolution occurs. Some flowers slowly evolve to display an appearance that is similar to the species that pollinates them. This attracts the male wasps who try to mate with the flower. The pollens stick to their feet, so when they leave and land on a different flower, the pollens carried by the wasps result in pollination.
Since humans know so much about the genes of the flowers, we have tried to manipulate their colour and the scent. The right amount of pigment from one flower and can be extracted and implanted into another. This results in change in the colour of the flower. Researcher Robert Griesbach followed this technique to turn a red rose to a bright blue. It is expected that following this technique, new species of flowers will be brought into existence, but let’s see how that turns out.
While some people are happy with the colours of flowers as they are, some would love to see unusual colours in their favourite flowers. But for now, we will leave it to the researchers. We, at The Flora, are simply glad that flowers exist. We already love the vibrant colours they are naturally present in.
Are you thankful for the beautiful and sweet-scented flowers too? Order a bunch of flowers from The Flora or get your monthly subscription by visiting https://theflora.in/
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Author: Bhawika Jethwani