Flower Color Variation

Open any wildflower guidebook and the color of the flowers is the most important aspect noted. Open a nursery catalog and flower color variation is rampant.

Garden flowers are bred from wildflowers or are the wildflowers themselves. It isn’t hard to assume some of that flower color variation will show up in nature.

white rose gentian flowers
Rose Gentian flowers are bright pink with a small lime green center. The foot or so tall plants are covered with flowers. Tucked in among the pink flowers can be a plant with bright white flowers. The green center is still there.

Color is the main thing I look for as I go walking seeking wildflowers to photograph. It’s easier to spot that splash of color than the shape of a new plant. It makes me stop and focus on the flower.

incomplete flower color variation
Perennial pea flowers are a vivid deep pink impossible to miss. Here and there a plant has what appears to be white flowers. The pink isn’t quite gone.

Perennial peas are a vivid pink. It’s hard to miss a slope covered with these big pink splashes. The occasional white ones stand out.

Rose Gentian is another bright pink flower with a greenish yellow center. The white variety still has the center color.

White seems to be the main flower color variation. I’ve seen it in blue phlox and great blue lobelia among others.

white is a common flower color variation
Normally the flower of the great blue lobelia is blue, a deep almost purplish blue. That makes a plant with white flowers even more obvious.

Butterfly Weed, the bright orange milkweed, has the greatest range of flower color variation I’ve seen in the wild. The nursery catalog people need to do a little walking along my Ozark roads.

This is one of the wild plants found in nursery catalogs. These versions are usually a yellow to yellowish orange found more commonly west of the Ozarks according to Dr. Rintz who found this color in Kansas.

Along my road I rarely see the yellowish color. Instead I find deep red to fiery orange. Occasionally I come across a plant with two tone flowers, orange back swept sepals and deep red corona.

Flower color variation can mean a new species. One of my new plant finds this year is pale jewelweed with its pale yellow flowers. I found one of these plants growing next to a spotted orange jewelweed. They are definitely different plants.

Pale Jewelweed Flower
On first glance the pale jewelweed flower could be a color variation of the orange spotted jewelweed. But comparing the two, it definitely isn’t. The pale jewelweed plant is bigger. The flower is bigger and the center tube is larger compared to the flower length.

The brush cutter is busy elsewhere this year. That leaves me plenty of plants along the roads to look over for those splashes of color.

Flower color variation is another factor to consider when writing a wildflower guide.