May 13, 2013 @ ScientificAmerican
In the springtime it can be easy to spot flowers in a dazzling array of colors at flower gardens and in plant nurseries. And with Mother’s Day coming, stunning flower bouquets seem to be everywhere. Have you ever wondered what makes a flower appear a certain color to us? For example, what pigments make a rose be a deep, rich shade of red? Do different flowers use the same pigments? In this activity you’ll get to use paper chromatography to investigate if the pigments from one type of red flower are different from those in another type of red flower.
A flower’s pigments help to attract possible pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There are two major classes of flower pigments: carotenoids and flavonoids. Carotenoids include carotene pigments (which produce yellow, orange and red colors). Flavonoids include anthocyanin pigments (which produce red, purple, magenta and blue colors). Usually, the color a flower appears depends on the color of the pigments in the flower, but this can be affected by other factors. For example, blue cornflowers have the same pigments as red roses, but the pigments in the cornflower petals are bound to other pigments and metal ions, making cornflowers look blue.
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