The Importance of Flowers

The Importance of Flowers

The coming of spring and summer is a joyful time for a variety of reasons, we move away from the long dark nights which appear to go on forever and with the slight increments of light, bring new life. Bulbs and seeds which were dormant deep in the protection of the soil begin to come to life as the ground thaws and the sun begins to penetrate.

Early spring flowers provide much-needed nectar for insects when they emerge from the safety of their hives or burrows and many caterpillars eat leaves, grasses and roots to build up the energy required to transform into adults. However, flowers such as Thyme and Foxglove are food for some.

As we move towards late spring and summer, we see an abundance of wildflowers along verges, hedgerows and meadows. The mix of colours and heights is not only a pleasure to see, but these native plants have a diverse range of benefits.

As already mentioned, wildflowers are a food source for bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators and as our landscape has changed and continues to change, with fewer green gardens and more driveways, these flowers become vital for insects and the bats and birds which feed on them.

As a result of the root system, wildflower meadows create stable soil due. At a time when flooding is becoming more and more common, this type of soil holds rainwater without losing nutrients. washing away topsoil destroying the soil and local water systems.

Trees also provide a source of many colours and there is nothing better than them coming into full flower along with their pleasing rich green foliage, however, pollinators have a very different view of them. 


Fascinatingly, White Horse Chestnut flowers turn yellow when they open. However, once they have been pollinated, they change to pink. When observing bees, they predominantly go to the yellow-spotted flowers and not those with the pink spot. This wonderful adaptation helps the insect to save energy whilst efficiently pollinating the plant.

Amazingly, there is evidence that some plants can sense the sounds of pollinators reacting by instantly sweetening their nectar. It has also been found that other plants make high-pitched noises that lie beyond the scope of human hearing but can nonetheless be detected some distance away.


The brightly coloured Sunflower is perfect for attracting insects with the central spirals packed with nectar and pollen, directing them to the flower. Additionally, birds, such as Goldfinch, adore their seeds.

Insects have a different vision to humans and therefore, see flowers very differently from how we do. Bees have photoreceptors that are most sensitive to green, blue and ultraviolet, while many birds can see from red to ultraviolet. 

Many flowers accumulate UV pigments in their petals, creating patterns that are invisible to us but vital to attract and direct insects. Watch this video to see how insects see different patterns and colours.


Extract taken from Buglife:

  • Bowl-shaped flowers such as Buttercups have a ring of anthers in the middle with lots of pollen. They are accessible to most insects but are mainly visited by flies, honey bees and solitary bees.
  • Bell-shaped flowers such as Bluebells are the favourite feeding places of bumblebees with long tongues.
  • Pea-shaped flowers have a large upper petal, two large side petals and two lower petals that are often fused together and called the keel. When a bee enters the flower to drink the nectar, its weight pulls down the keel and the anthers and stigma touch the bee’s fur. 
  • This Bee Orchid has a pattern that mimics a bee to encourage bees to come and visit the flower

Food for Humans

Luckily, for us, there are also nutritional benefits we can get from flowers, including adding some lovely colour to our food – Never eat anything if you are unsure of what it is! Here are a few, taken from the RHS website.

Borage (Borago offincinalis) – the cucumber flavour of these attractive blue flowers adds interest to cakes, salads and pate. Flowers are easily removed and can be frozen in ice cubes or crystallised.
Bergamot (Monarda didyma) – a strong spicy scent, makes good tea and complements bacon, poultry, rice and pasta.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – mild onion flavour, good in salads, egg dishes and sauces for fish.
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum) – petal flavour gives colour to creamy soups, fish chowder and egg dishes in the same way as calendula.

Clover (Trifolium pratense) – both red and white clover flowers can be used to garnish fruit and green salads or make wine from whole red flowers
Courgette or marrow flowers (Cucurbita cvs) – can be eaten hot in a tomato sauce or cold stuffed with cooked rice, cheese, nuts or meat. Use male flowers so as not to reduce yield, unless you’re suffering from a glut!
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) – used to make wine and cordials, or place in a muslin bag to flavour tarts and jellies, remove before serving. Elderflowers can be dipped in batter and deep fried.
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) – flavoured sugar, honey or vinegar can be used in cakes and biscuits while sprigs complement roast pork, lamb and chicken.

Mint (Mentha spp) – apple, pineapple and ginger mint, plus peppermint and spearmint flowers can all be used in vinegar and butter for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – brightly coloured, peppery flowers are good in salads and pasta dishes. The whole flower, leaves, and buds can be used or just the petals for a milder flavour.
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) – intense colour and a peppery taste useful in soups, stews and puddings. Petals can be dried or pickled in vinegar or added to oil or butter.
Rose (Rosa) – all roses are edible with the more fragrant roses being the best. Petals can be crystallised, used to flavour drinks, sugar and even icing for summer cakes.
Rosemary (Salvia [formerly Rosmarinusofficinalis) – a sweet flavour similar to the leaves that can be used fresh to garnish salads and tomato dishes or to flavour butter.

Chantal loves nature, especially on her own doorstep. She became the first London National Park City Ranger with the aim of helping others discover the amazing, wildlife, green spaces and events across London. Check out her own nature website here.

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