P71018Long before my white supremacy garden (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/white-supremacy/), I noticed that some white flowers were inferior to their more colorful counterparts. Brent (to the left in the picture in that other article I just cited) is often pleased to remind me of it. Only a few flowers are at their best in white. I, of course, am pleased to remind Brent of them. Then, he reminds me that black flowers are very rare, as if that makes them special. I then remind him that most black and dark flowers are pollinated by flies, so must imitate the fragrances of what flies are attracted to.

Callas, lilies, gladiolus, camellias, oleanders and dahlias all excel in white. They are at least comparable to their more colorful varieties. White callas, gladiolus and oleanders are actually superior to those more colorful. Some but not all varieties of rose, hydrangea, wisteria and tall bearded iris are exquisite in white as well.

Then there are plants like bougainvilleas, crepe myrtles, geraniums and angel’s trumpets that are less impressive in white. Bougainvilleas and crape myrtles just are not quite as bright in white as they are in their vibrant pinks and reds. White geraniums and angel’s trumpets are relatively weak, and white geraniums do not drop faded flowers efficiently.

Many white flowers do not even try to impress. They throw their pollen to the wind and let it do the work. Color is for flashy flowers that want to attract pollinators. Pyracantha and photinia flowers, for example, are neither colorful nor big and flashy, but are very numerous. They are somewhat fragrant, just in case some sort of pollinators happen to be interested. Other wind pollinated flowers do not even offer that much.

Nocturnal flowers that rely on nocturnal pollinators might be big and fragrant, but are mostly insipid pale white. Some are slightly blushed with yellow or pink. They are not bright white only because they do not actually use the brightness of their white to get noticed. They instead use ultraviolet or infrared color that is invisible to us. Many of these seemingly bland flowers have rather flashy patterns of stripes, spots and blotches that are only visible to nocturnal animals and insects who can see ultraviolet or infrared light. Many flowers that are active during the day use this technique in conjunction with visible color (that we can see) as well. Regardless, it does nothing for us, since we can not see it.

5 thoughts on “White Trash

  1. Well for my money, there’s nothing white better than a magnolia blossom, a big, creamy, citrus-scented blossom that wafts its scent far and wide on the breeze. Holly blossoms have a headier sweetness, but they don’t have that showy size.

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    1. Holly?! I never noticed fragrance from holly. There are not many hollies here. Magnolias are uncommon too. I used to grow them years ago. They are not a clear white though. Most are more of a creamy white. White star magnolia is about as white as they get, but that is one of the more difficult types to grow here.

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      1. Ah, I’m talking Magnolia Grandiflora and yes, it’s creamy. Holly blossoms have an amazing scent, which would likely not be as noticeable in CA because it hangs and wafts around in humid air.

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      2. Magnolia grandiflora has always been the ‘standard’ magnolia here and farther South. We used to grow deciduous magnolias on the farm, but they are not popular. Fragrant flowers are popular for their fragrance, but only the very fragrant sort are appreciated as such. Holly Olive, Osmanthus heterophylla, happens to be fragrant here, but only because it is so very fragrant. Even it must be appreciated in close proximity.

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