How do flowers get their pigment

That's why flowers are colorful

By Annelie Neumann | March 29, 2020, 5:13 am

Everyone knows there are red roses, blue violets, and yellow sunflowers. But why are flowers actually colorful and how do the different flower colors come about?

The question of why flowers are colorful could actually be answered with one sentence: "The colorants of the flowers serve to preserve the species by attracting insects, among other things, for pollination by the flower color", says Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Uwe Kunert, head of the experimental farm at the Leibnitz Institute for Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Production (IGZ) e. V. upon request from myHOMEBOOK. But if you take a closer look at the flora, you can quickly see that there is much more to the flower color.

The genesis of colorful Flowers

The first plants on our planet were the Nacktsamer 270 million years ago (Oberperm). They reached their peak in the Jurassic Age. There they were primarily food for many species of dinosaurs. In addition to many species of palm ferns and ginkgo plants (by the way, there is only one species left today), the family of the naked also includes conifers. All these naked animals reproduced via spores, sometimes via cones.

From the group of naked plants, a completely new type of plant developed in the course of evolution: the bedecktsamer. “In the narrower sense, this group of plants includes all flowering plants and plants that we can also eat, such as fruit and vegetables. The flowers are almost always unisexual. All of these plants have flowers, shoots or shoot sections with leaves that are used for sexual reproduction, ”says plant expert Kunert.

There are more overcast areas worldwide. It is characteristic of this new type of plant that the ovules are enclosed by a carpel. Protected in this way, they can develop into mature seeds. In contrast to the naked samers, the seeds are not exposed and are therefore not directly accessible for pollination. This poses a challenge for the plants: they have to be pollinated by outside help. In the course of evolution, more and more insects came into play for pollination.

Why are there colorful flowers?

“In order for insects to pollinate at all, the petals and sepals have become intensely colored over millions of years. They have such a show and attractiveness ”, explains Uwe Kunert. Flowers that are pollinated by insects therefore attract with particularly colorful flowers and sweet-tasting fruits. When birds, bees or butterflies graze the flowers, pollen inevitably sticks to their antennae and legs. They then carry on the pollen and pollinate flower after flower with each flight.

In comparison, plants that are pollinated by wind and air have inconspicuous flower colors and unappetizing fruits.

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How are the different flower colors formed?

The pigments in the plant's genes determine how colorful a flower will be and what color its bloom will be. Probably the most famous pigment from the plant world is certainly chlorophyll. The green dye is found in all green parts of the plant. “The flower colors are very different and yet some basic chemical substances can be characterized. Blue and red colors are very often caused by anthocyanins that are dissolved in the cell sap. In an acidic environment they are red, in an alkaline reaction they are blue. The yellow and brown color of petals is often due to carotenoids. Other yellow flower pigments dissolved in the cell sap are derived from flavones, ”explains Uwe Kunert.

How are white flowers made?

For the plant expert, it is not the brightly colored flowers, but rather the white colored flowers that are remarkable: “The tissue of the flower envelope hardly contains any cell inclusions, so it is basically transparent. In addition, there are numerous air-containing intercellular spaces between the cells. These are spaces through which the gas exchange takes place. This reflects the sunlight and creates the same effect that can also be observed in loose snow. "

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How do multicolored flowers develop?

The basic types of flower color mentioned are pronounced in many types of flowers. However, mixed colors with numerous color gradations, such as orange, violet and pink, can also be produced. However, according to Uwe Kunert, a combination of the individual color variants is also very common. Different colored tissue parts, which often have a special visual effect, can then be observed within a flower.

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