By Kirsten Vidulich
Of the known 300,000 species of plants, over 250,000 of them produce flowers. It’s sometimes a hidden, mysterious thing, it’s sometimes a showy, unapologetically gaudy display of nature’s love of variety, but each one displays that species’ survival and reproductive destiny.
Along with being a botanical necessity, these petaled enticements offer much needed food to our unsung pollinators, and flowers have shaped and populated their chosen environment with their successful progeny. They’ve drawn us humans into their seduction for as long as can be remembered. Although variety and beauty has long been affected by human hands, the purpose of the flower has very little to do with humans at all. In fact, a flower’s evolution, variety and type has more to do with their surroundings, pollinating species and how they have adapted to secure reproduction.
The seed is the start of life but the flower is the reason life continues. Humans have developed a keen appreciation for a flower’s beauty and less awareness of the integral part of the life cycle these brilliant creatures participate in. Every one of our plant foods—from fruit trees to grain crops to broccoli—depends on a healthy flowering and pollination cycle, a sensitive dance of timing and optimal conditions, for that species to continue. Sometimes we’re participating in this dance, like when we watch our orchards and berry patches for its pollinator’s seasonal return. Sometimes flowering and pollination of our food crops is taken on by seed companies or plant breeders, leaving us to harvest the plant before its completed its reproductive cycle, with the knowledge that food crop will still be available to us in the future. Either way, humans are one small part of the massive work the flowering parts of a plant have to accomplish in their short and stunning lives.
The secret to their success:? Attraction. We humans fall into the draw just as pollinating bats and bees do. We’re enticed by the colours, smells, textures and delicacy of the flower, and some (myself included) would move earth and stone to create more spaces for flowers to flourish. The physiology of the flower’s power is simple, we crave beauty and sensory stimulation, all us earth bound creatures.
It’s said the true sign of depression is the lack of any pleasant or emotive response to a flower. The timely appearance of flowers, in short bursts offers our plant kingdom in its prime, ready to entice all of nature to see its potential and necessity to continue. The flower asks us to feed our senses, in exchange for pollination and the production of her seed. Kinda racy, I know, but that’s nature for you!
Think of the sensory overload of a bee inside a blossom, filling up their pollen pouches, rolling in the fragrance and colour and leaving fat and heavy with all the flower had to share, all in exchange for pollination and the promise of a future full of more flowers, seeds, fruit and food. The flower is the foundation of hope for a future existence, simplified and offered to all earth’s creatures.