The secret halo of flowers

Nature is pretty amazing sometimes; even just thinking about the way the process of pollination works. Living things are pretty amazing, and there are few things as amazing as flowers in the natural world. We might be moving away from the warmer seasons, where flowers blossom and bloom, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn more about them.

The rhyme tells us that roses are red, and violets are blue, but it is actually very rare to find a flower that is truly blue. Plant breeders have been doing their best to try to create and cultivate blue flowers. These flowers must almost always be chemically enhanced with dyes to make them appear bluer. Purplish and bluish flowers are generally the outcome, but true blue is hard to find; but, there is also a secret halo that many flowers have, and it’s blue.

What are the halos?

There are definitely some distinctive halo markings, known as rings, at the base of the flower petals. We don’t realize they are there because they often aren’t visible to us unless the petals are dark. But in the majority of cases, they are so small that we can’t make them out most of the time, and we often need laboratory equipment to see them. These halos were unknown to us until a few years ago, and now botanists are discovering, they are much more commonplace than we first thought.

Strange discovery

The most curious thing about these halos is that they have been found in plants of different species, but, they also differ in appearance. It was discovered, by Beverley Glover of Cambridge University, that some of these halos are very faint, whereas others are much stronger and more pronounced, but all the same color. Clearly, the blue is the common denominator here, and the disorder in the height, width, scatter the blue light across the petals, and this leads to the halo shape.


Bees have a strong and important relationship with flowers, and they play a big part in this story as well. We know that bees can see the blue halo, and they might even be a way for the flowers to communicate with the best, or at least to attract them. No matter the background of the flower, or the conditions, bumblebees are proven to be able to see the halo, and they can find halos more quickly when they have a blue halo attached to them. It could even be that the bees are attracted the blue halo, so are more likely to pollinate it. However, this has been disputed and is not wholly proven yet.

These secret halos present on flowers have taught us a lot about flowers and the way they work. It is curious that only a select number of flowers have this blue halo, and we are still unsure exactly what the purpose of this halo is if there is one. It could just be a colorful and pretty pigment, but it could play a role in attracting bees to pollinate the flower.