Why different flowers have different colors?

Whether you take a visit to your favorite florist or take a stroll around the park, chances are you are going to notice flowers of different colors. Some are available in various shades while others are multi-colored, making them really fascinating. The joy that they elicit is one of the reasons why people love them. Yet, have you ever wondered what makes different flowers as colorful as they are?

The main reason is quite complex, and it lies underneath the surface of the plant’s leaves and petals. The varying color that we perceive from different flowers is a result of a light reflection from various pigments from the plant.

Anthocyanidins, a group of compounds, are the culprit. Each of them is named from the first flower in which they are found, such as the violet ‘petunidin’ of the Petunia, the blue-violet ‘delphinidin’ of the Delphinium, bright red ‘pelargonidin’ from the Pelargonium or Geranium.

These anthocyanidin pigments are what biotechnologists also used on research on how to change the coloring of flowers. The delphinidin gene is placed into carnations to make it bluish. On the other hand, the bright red pelargonidin gene is incorporated in petunias to provide it an orange shade. However, there are other factors involved, such as cell shape and pH level, which makes the genetic production of the flowers a more daunting task.

When anthocyanidin pigments are combined with the sugar innate in plants, it produces anthocyanin pigments, which gives leaves its color in autumn. Other pigments are also present, such as chlorophyll, responsible for the green color, and flavonols for the yellow shade. The latter and its flavonoid pigments not only alter the effects of the standard pigments but also take in ultraviolet light, making them readily noticed by insects.

Well, after all, the varying colors of plants and flowers didn’t exist for our satisfaction and amusements. It is for the insects, mostly pollinators, why flower colors exist. Pollination and ensuing production of food is the reason for these color variations. Some flowers that may appear red to us may seem to be light blue for insects. Yellow or white ones may appear red to them.

Certain flowers, such as the forget-me-nots and lungworts plus other species from the Borage lineages, change their color from pink to blue. Larkspur and other flowers also undergo these changes. It is not for naught, though. Such modifications usually imply to an insect that the flower is old, or has already been pollinated. Thus, serving as a signal to move to the next one.

Flowers may also change colors when exposed to various conditions and placed in a different location. Temperature significantly affects colors, which is why we see brighter flowers in the colder northern region compared to hotter areas. Traumas from insect attack, drought, and overall plant nutrition may also result in fluctuating pigment levels, causing varying colors.

There are instances, though, that flowers don’t change. It is the perception of the person viewing the flowers that actually changes. Women are inclined to distinguish deeper colors, such as chartreuse, fuchsia, or turquoise. Meanwhile, men tend only to notice primary shades, such as green, pink, or blue. These varying perceptions are linked to differences in the human’s eye structure.

Another factor that may also cause a difference in the colors or shades of flowers is light. Different light conditions may evoke diverse perceptions. Noticing a flower in the morning light may give it a different color when you view it during midday. A sunny day may elicit brighter colors compared to a cloudy day. The color we see dramatically depends on the light reflected off the plant or flower surface. Any alteration with these will affect our view of their color.

More Readings:

Flower (Wikipedia)

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