Nature on our doorsteps: Springtime colours

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Yellow and white appear to be the most dominant colours for our early wildflowers. 

Yellow wildflowers include Dandelions, Lesser Celandines, Primroses, Cowslips, and Coltsfoot.  White flowers include Daisies, Wild Garlic, Wood Anemone, Cow Parsley, and tree blossoms like Blackthorn and Hawthorn.

Wood Anemone grows in the low light levels of the springtime woodland 1

Wood Anemone grows in the low light levels of the springtime woodland

There are a few reasons why these colours are frequent in springtime.

At this time of the year, the sun is lower in the sky, so its rays are not yet as strong as they will be later in the summertime. Sunny weather is unpredictable and the days are also shorter. 

Yellow pigments take less energy for the plant to produce. This is a useful characteristic when a plant must grow in poor light conditions. 

While insects see colours differently to us, yellow and white flowers often look brighter because they can reflect light back outwards. 

The yellows and whites of Dandelions Daisies and Cowslips add colour to a springtime lawn 1

The yellows and whites of Dandelions, Daisies, and Cowslips add colour to a springtime lawn

This helps these flowers to stand out better, making them much more visible to the few insects that might be around in early spring.

In addition, many of our springtime plants have flat flowerheads. 

This simple shape makes it easier for a wider range of pollinators to visit, from flies, to hoverflies, early bees, bumblebees and butterflies. 

All these features increase the flower’s chance of being successfully pollinated, which is the key objective for most plants.

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