Not only is this particular colour in many flowering plant forms, but it is also a colour favoured by bees. The mystery of why is partly solved when you discover that flowers in the violet-blue range produce the highest volumes of nectar.
For bees, flower colour matters. And what WE see and what THEY see is very different. If you are adding bee-friendly plants to your garden, go for anything in the purple range, as they give off more ultraviolet light (UV) than other colours. Bees can ‘see’ these flowers better as their eyesight is based on the amount of UV light that is reflected from the colour of a flower. So bees are naturally more attracted to flowers in shades of purple.
Scientifically, UV light is a colour that is not visible to the human eye. Violet is the highest visible colour on the electromagnetic spectrum. Ultraviolet is the next highest colour that can be seen by some mammals, birds, insects, and especially our friends, the bees.
Adding some ultraviolet to your garden will not only make your bees happy, but it will add some artistic expression, a little imagination and perhaps the feeling of spiritual enlightenment as well. Purple apparently is associated with spirituality, the sacred, higher self, passion, third eye, fulfilment and vitality.
Flowers know what they are doing. In the same way they lure bees with nectar so they can be pollinated, they have also figured out which colours attract bees the most, the end goal always being pollination.
So why aren’t all flowers purple I wondered? Well, not all pollinating insects like the same flowers, in fact, there are many insect pollinators, which include beetles, flies, and ants, with butterflies and moths being important pollinators of flowering plants in wild ecosystems and managed systems, such as parks and gardens.
This should not be a surprise. Although they all like - and need - nectar-rich flowers for the food they provide, pollinating insects are not a homogenous group. For example, a hoverfly has a different mouth shape to a bee, so certain flower shapes are accessible to one, but not the other.
Scent also attracts some pollinators. How many times have you enjoyed a flower’s fragrance? Many of the essential oils used in aromatherapy and perfumes are derived from floral scent chemicals that the flowers produce to attract pollinators. And not all scent is the same. Bees and hoverflies for example are usually attracted to flowers with sweet scents, whilst beetles generally prefer ones that have a spicy fragrance.
Scientists consider bees to be a keystone species as they are so important to an ecosystem that it will collapse without them. Which is not surprising when you learn that bees are found on every continent except for Antarctica, and in every habitat in those continents that contain insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Bee populations worldwide have been shrinking for years, and Earth is at risk of losing all its insects in 100 years. Without bees, crops worldwide would suffer, making nuts, fruits, and vegetables more expensive and difficult to produce.
If that doesn’t convince you, think about the fact that bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops. One out of every three or four bites of food you eat is thanks to bees!
So let that Morning Glory climb your back fence – you are providing food for your local bee population – and ultimately, yourself!