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Botanist's Lens: Purple Defense

Calla lilies come in a variety of colors. Callas are true ornamental flowers that exude elegance, style and beauty from all angles and in all shades. One single Calla flower in a vase is probably way more elegant than a bountiful collections of summer cut flowers. Very aptly named, the origin of the word Calla comes from the Greek word for beauty. Also, Callas lilies are not true Lilies; they belong to 'Araceae' family (arum family) and not Liliaceae of the lily family. In the pictures, you will notice the deep dark purple flowers and pink callas growing in the new flower beds at London Town. (The William Brown House is a gorgeous backdrop behind this flower bed!)

The deep purple is a stunning backdrop to any planter and even more to the light tan pea gravel in the beds. I picked the Callas for its elegant form and rich color contrast. But also because it is a good example to show children that not all flowers are pink, red or yellow. They can be black, deep dark purple, and shades of green sometimes. When I walk by these deep purple Callas, it more often catches my eye for the super pigments present inside the flowers that give it the rich purple color.

The 'Flavonoids' - mainly 'anthocyanins pigments' - are responsible for the many flower colors like blue, purple and red. They help in plant defense, mainly against abiotic and biotic stresses such as: UV radiation, predators, oxidative stress and much more. "Flavonoids represent a wide group of plant secondary metabolites implicated in many physiological roles, from the attraction of pollinators to the protection against biotic or abiotic stresses. Their role as developmental regulators of auxin transport and catabolism and the protection against UV radiation are considered the most ancestral functions of these phytochemicals" Source

In last week's Botanist Lens post, we looked at 'phytochemicals' and how they benefit human health. "Yet flavonoids are not present in plants for human benefit. They fulfill many disparate biological functions, mostly mediating interactions between plants and the environment: animal attractants for pollination and seed dispersal, signalling molecules in plant-microorganisms interactions, or participating in plant defense against pathogens. They are also involved in the mechanisms of tolerance to practically all types of abiotic stress, including UV radiation, extreme temperatures, ozone exposure, drought or salinity" Source

Callas are more successful when grown in pots in zone 7, but you could try some hardier varieties in the ground. They like moisture but not stagnant water. If you have planted Callas and they aren't blooming, try giving them more drainage and amend the soil.

Plant defense mechanisms are complex. Evolution of plant defense is super diverse and highly impressive to say the very least. Leaving you with another article "Anthocyanins have also been implicated in the camouflage of plant parts against their backgrounds, in the undermining of insect crypsis, and in the mimicry of defensive structures". Source

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