Although it may seem like they have been put on the Earth expressly for our viewing pleasure, quite aside from their aesthetics, flowers benefit our environment in a number of ways. From the most carefully tended garden roses to meadows of wildflowers growing with abandon, as with everything in the natural world, every bloom, every bud, every root and every seed - no matter how small - plays an important part in the world's eco-system. |
For amateur botanists, those heading off on organised flower tours, or anyone who simply has an interest in the natural world, here is a brief overview of how flowers benefit the environment in which they exist.
The Natural Environment
Clean air: The most important function of flowering plants (like all plants) is the production of the vital oxygen needed to support all life on Earth, by absorbing carbon dioxide and harmful toxins from the atmosphere.
Pollination: But their good looks and vibrant colours also have a purpose in attracting pollinators, such as bees and other insects. And while pollination may be self-serving for that particular plant species, every species plays a vital role in helping the eco-system to flourish.
Water and soil: The anatomy of flowering species assists in the purification of soil and water (aquatic and sub-aquatic species), by absorbing CO2 and nutrients through their foliage (and releasing O2), and in preventing erosion through their roots.
Mulch: Like every living thing, flowers are part of the great cycle of life, which includes death. Once the blooms wither and fall off the plant they disintegrate into the soil and become nutrient-rich mulch for other plants.
The Human Environment
Aesthetics and health: The most obvious benefit to humans is the visual beauty flowers add – as simple as looking and smelling delightful. Research has shown that there is more to "flower power" than we may first have thought when the phrase was coined. Flowers have been linked with the promotion of positive mental health, maintaining blood pressure, reducing anxiety, relaxation and general wellbeing and have even been found to induce feelings of compassion.
Maintaining food sources: The birds, bees and insects attracted by flowering plants also play their part in the human food chain. The more pollination and plant reproduction that occurs, the more stable food sources we have (fruits, vegetables, grain crops). In addition, the presence of bees and birds reduces the amount of potentially harmful insects that destroy crops.
Medicinal purposes: Throughout history many cultures have made use of flowers for medicinal purposes. They have long been acknowledged for their therapeutic purposes and are used in their dried form, tonics and essential oils. As well as being far cheaper than synthetically produced drugs, these remedies are entirely natural and have little or no side effects. The most famous homeopath of modern times is Edward Bach, who developed his Bach Flower Remedies in the 1930s, which are still popular all over the world today.
Learn More About the Natural World on Flower Tours
For those with a keen interest in botany, organised flower tours in the company of expert, qualified naturalists and botanists can open up a new and very exciting world. Experiencing the sight of exotic wildflowers in their natural setting is entirely different to visiting glasshouses or cultivated gardens, and participants are able to immerse in not just the nature, but also the local culture of their chosen destination.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa chooses the expert-led flower tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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