Plants spend a lot of energy producing pigments for the colors of flowers, as this initiative is essential to attract pollinators. Their colors, smells and shapes contribute to generating an attractive environment necessary for successful reproductive results.
Human beings appreciate flowers not only for their beauty but also for their medicinal properties. Different flowers can be used to alleviate or even treat different conditions, in addition to providing a pleasant aesthetic experience.
A large number of plants contain medicinal substances and, interestingly, these substances are usually concentrated in the floral parts of the plant. What is most notable is that the color of a flower can sometimes tell what kind of healing properties it has.
Why are the colors of the flowers different?
In fact, it is not the flower or the object that determines its color; instead, the colors of these things and what we see are created within our minds.
Our eyes and brain process the various colors we see as a combination of electromagnetic waves from a beam of light reflected off an object. In a nutshell, let me give you an example to make it clearer.
When a beam of light of various wavelengths strikes a flower’s petals, some waves are absorbed while others are reflected, creating a reflected ray. In short, our brain deciphers incoming light waves of certain frequencies to produce what we perceive as colors. This happens according to the inherent spectrum that governs the interpretation.
There are several factors that affect the color of a flower. One is the shape and texture of the surface, which affect how much light it reflects. The other is the composition of its pigments: different types and concentrations absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others.
The substances that determine the colors of flowers and their properties
Pigments are essential chemicals responsible for the vivid colors of flowers. They are what give each flower its distinct hue.
Chlorophyll is the best known and is found in plants, mainly in leaves and stems. It is also present in some green flowers. These plants are often able to self-fertilize, which means they usually don’t require pollinators. Therefore, they are usually small and not very showy.
Example: banana, pinaceae flowers, fox grape.
These green plants are packed with a variety of vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that can help detoxify the body. It is known to have numerous medicinal properties.
Anthocyanins are a vital class of pigments found in nature. The term is derived from two Greek words, “anthos” (flower) and “cyan” (blue). These specific pigments are predominantly seen in the blue petals of various flowers. Anthocyanins can acquire reddish tones depending on the acidity level of the liquid that contains them.
Example: poppy, mallow, lungwort.
These compounds have powerful antioxidant capabilities and offer neuroprotective action, making them extremely beneficial for medicinal use.
Natural pigments give flowers shades of yellow, orange or red. This same substance can also be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. The name “carrot” actually comes from the Latin word “carota”, which translates to carrot. This vegetable is of great importance due to the extraordinary amount of pigments it contains.
Example: spring, dandelion, helichrysum.
Carotenoids have remarkable medicinal properties; they act as antioxidants and can even be converted to vitamin A in certain cases.
Organic pigments play an important role in the pigmentation of flowers and other plants. However, there are some other substances that also contribute to this effect.
What do the colors of the flowers mean?
Although flower colors carry a powerful symbolic message, I will not discuss their cultural or religious implications in this context.
As mentioned earlier in this article, plants expend a lot of energy creating pigment-based substances to attract pollinators and for the continuation of their species. If you want to understand the strategies that plants use to successfully pollinate, then “the vegetable messiah” by Carlos Madalena is the ideal book for you. You can find interesting anecdotes and facts about this topic there.
In addition to being attractive to insects and birds, the pigments also offer a protective action. In many cases, they are antioxidants that can prevent UV damage, keep pests at bay, and fight free radicals.
Many medicinal flowers are abundant in nutrients and pigments, which can be combined with other beneficial ingredients to improve our health and well-being. Taking advantage of these substances can help us to have a healthier life.
Some flowers attract pollinators with the help of the substances they produce, such as nectar, pollen and even pheromones. Therefore, although the color of a flower can be of great help when determining a medicinal herb, we must also look for other characteristics in order to harvest the plant safely.
A curiosity about the colors of flowers and insects
While I’ve outlined the essential components of coloring a flower, what shade is a flower to an insect? It is noteworthy that insects have their own preferences for the color of flowers.
It is not uncommon for insects to be able to see different colors than humans when it comes to the same flowers. Insects can observe other wavelengths that are invisible to us, making them more attuned to their surroundings. Using filters that mimic the vision of bees to observe a flower, you will be amazed at the impressive results. Many flowers actually have color patterns that guide the insect to its reproductive organ. Isn’t that amazing?