Your garden may be a mass of colour and scent at the moment, but it’s not just for our enjoyment. Flowers will use every trick in the book to ensure that the right pollinator comes a-knocking.
Significance of colour
Winter pollinated flowers will also be light in colour, and have a strong scent to marshal the pollinators onto the landing strip.
On the other hand, tropical flowers will have strong colours to cope with being seen in strong sunlight.
In UK, very early spring flowers are mainly white or yellow
Honey bees, although blind to red, distinguish at least four different colour regions, namely, yellow (including orange and yellow green), blue green, blue (including purple and violet), and ultraviolet. Their sensitivity to ultraviolet enables bees to follow nectar-guide patterns not apparent to the human eye .
Bee flowers, open in the daytime, attract their insect visitors primarily by bright colours. At close range, special patterns and fragrances come into play. Many bee flowers provide their visitors with a landing platform in the form of a broad lower lip eg nectar guides on the lower spurred petal of the viola, on which the bee sits down before pushing its way into the flower’s interior
Typical moth flowers are datura, stephanotis, and honeysuckle. The flowers are light-coloured, with often long and narrow tubes, without landing platforms. The petals are sometimes fringed; the copious nectar is often in a spur. They are open and overwhelmingly fragrant at night.
Good butterfly flowers are conspicuously coloured, often red, generally smaller than moth flowers, and have flat-topped inflorescences that provide the perfect landing space for them
Why do plants smell?
The smell of the flower alerts pollinators that the plant is ready to be pollinated, and when the appropriate insect or animal arrives to collect pollen and/or nectar, pollen gets transferred.
Part of the mechanism that is used to attract insects and animals such as bats to roses and other flowers is the fragrance. Using this powerful lure gets the pollinator in close proximity to the plant. In like manner, the flower scent in turn attracts the pollinator to other plants, making pollination possible.
The fact that flowers smell good is simply Nature’s way of making sure the cycle of life for the plants continues with no interruption.