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FLOWER COLOR 1

  The advantages to this strategy are that plants do not have to produce expensive petals or nectar and that they can reproduce when animal pollinators are absent (such as early spring before insects are active).  The disadvantage to pollination without animals is that the transport of the pollen is random.  Pollination becomes less and less likely as the distance between the flowers increases.  Wind transport is susceptible to changes in humidity and is less common in the tropics (there are even insect pollinated grasses in the tropics as a result).

     Many flowers utilize animals to transport pollen from male organs in one flower to female organs on a different flower.  These flowers must both attract and reward the animal pollinator.  There are strategies involved: if there is too much reward at any one flower, the animal could be satiated and not visit a second flower.  If there is too little reward, then the animal might ignore the flower and pollinate other species of flower instead.

     The animals which pollinate flowers vary in their ability to see color.  Bees and wasps, for example, prefer flowers which are blue and yellow. Butterflies and hummingbirds perceive the color red which bees detect as black.  Bees (and even some butterflies and hummingbirds) can perceive ultraviolet patterns which are invisible to humans.  Moths and bats can pollinate flowers at night and depend more on the distinction between light and dark rather than color.

     Flower odors can also be adapted to attracting specific animals.  Flowers pollinated by birds often have no odor since this sense is typically not well developed in birds.  Flies often are attracted to plain flowers with the odors which are similar to sweat or even rotting flesh.  In the tropics, some flowers produce fruity odors to attract bats.  Some flowers mimic the sexual pheromones of beetles and wasps to entice males to the flowers, thinking that female insects are present.  (Some female orchids even resemble female wasps and male wasps pollinate the flowers by attempting to mate with them.)  Flower odor tends to be less important than color in attracting animals during the day but becomes the primary attractant at night.

     The following pictures show a diversity of possible flower colors.

WHITE

blackberry

blackberry

blueberry

blueberry

dogbane

dogbane

fleabane

solomons sealsolomons seal

may apple

may apple

queen annes lace

queen annes lace

RED

columbine

columbine

PINK

bouncing bet

bouncing bet

wild geranium

wild geranium

hardhack

hardhack

sheep laurel

sheep laurel

spiderwort

spiderwort