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Do plants attract suitors by their flashy colours?

Do plants attract suitors by their flashy colours?

Relationship between Colors Of Flower And Insects

We all admire the beautiful colors of various flowers. Colors play a huge role in determining the flower. The beautiful colors in red roses, and happy yellow sunflowers, are seen because of the same reason people have black or blonde hair.

Have you ever wondered about the origin of these bright colors and how it plays a massive role in a flower and insect relationship? If you are a wanderer, then this article will help answer your queries.

How Flowers Get Their Color?

Just as humans are born with a particular eye color because of the genes and heredity. The flowers also carry the pigments when they are grown. Chlorophyll is a well-known pigment, which is the reason behind the color green in leaves.

Pigments are mostly molecules that reflect a certain amount of wavelengths of light. Different wavelengths mean various colors that we perceive. ß-carotene is a common type of carotenoid that gives the sunflower its cheerful yellow color.

Similarly, anthocyanins are responsible for the blues, purples, reds, and even pinks in flowers.

Why Is Color Important For Insects?

Pollination is essential for reproduction in plants. For pollination, wind water, and most importantly, insects like bees and birds play a huge role. They act as carriers and carry pollen grains from one flower to another.

Flowers that are bright in color are more attractive to birds and insects. It is natural that when a plant requires an outside carrier to help in reproduction, the genetics will make the flower to have bright colors. It is because of these bright colors that insects and birds take the fruit as tasty.

In fact, to lure hummingbirds, particular flower genetics will make the petals red and orange-ish. On the other hand, some flowers produce bright colored petals to attract honey bees.

The plan to pollinator attraction

If you think the superficial colors, looks are the only things that attract the insects to the flowers, you are mistaken. There is a lot more going there.

We have learnt in the previous post how color of the flower can be a major attraction point to the insects. The fine lines on the petals of a flower act as a guiding source for insects to reach the nectar. Then, pollen grains stick to their body and travel with them to other flowers, contributing to reproduction. After a while, insects and birds start relating the color to their food source. They effortlessly get attracted to the color where they found the nectar earlier.

If the flower is independent of insects and birds as carriers and solely depends on either other natural ways or self, the color can be seen as dull and less bright.

Other Factors

The soft fragrance of rose is a favorite smell to many people. It can fill any space with a soothing scent. But we are not the only ones who get attracted to this fragrance.

Apart from the bright colors, insects also get attracted to the fragrance of flowers. This is also a tactic adopted by the flowers to get contributions in their reproduction. It works just like how we associate the appetizing smell of food to its deliciousness.

In a study conducted by Shun K Hirota, Kozue Nitta and their team at Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, it was established that swallowtail butterflies where more easily attracted to scents that were very subtle and not easily detectable by humans olfactory organs. It was also found that they preferred reddish colors than others.

The same results were seen with hawk moths which preferred yellowish colored flowers and with almost no scent. It was also observed that some flowers bloom only in the night to attract the nocturnal pollinators such as noctuid moths and beetles.

So do colorful flowers get more visitors?

While this is really fascinating, further experiments are needed to determine the role of generalist pollinators to understand the evolutionary process of flower color and scent changes in nocturnal flowers.

While other features, like petal textures and fragrance, are essential for the relationship between flowers and insects. Colors play the most vital role in this. It is responsible for the survival of flower generation one after another.  


PlantScience blog is an insightful discussion to understand and explain the science behind the great success of plants – how plants live, survive. Nature at its best is a great repository of knowledge and most of it is still a mystery to our minds. However, at Atrimed PlantScience, we have willed ourselves to research, understand the best-kept secrets of Nature and use that knowledge to the betterment of our health. We believe in thinking beyond, knowing beyond and using the best research capabilities to understand the science plants use to live, thrive, adapt and grow. In this blog, you would find details of some interesting plant facts, the science behind them, snippets of history, updates about science and many interesting secrets. Read, subscribe, share your comments about PlantScience with us. Thank you!

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