From herbaceous borders to indoor vases, flowers are everywhere, but while they themselves may be familiar sights, some aspects of their lives are a lot less well known. Between the big ones and little ones, the scented ones and smelly ones, the old ones and new ones, they’re a truly amazing and varied bunch, and there’s always a new secret or two to surprise you, no matter how much you know about them.
Here are just a few fun, fascinating – and sometimes surprising – facts about the world of flowering plants which you just might not have thought about before.
- Flowering plants have been around for a very, very long time. In fact they’re as old as the dinosaurs – well some of them, at least. The first flowers appeared around 125 million years ago, at the start of the Cretaceous Period, so while the likes of Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus never saw them, creatures like Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops lived in a flower-filled world!
- The best candidate for the title “World’s First Flowering Plant” is a 125 million year-old fossil discovered in what is now China, back in 2002 and which rejoices in the name Archaefructus sinensis. It is believed to have lived in shallow lakes – and it looks rather like modern parsley.
- The Egyptians may have been the world’s first plant collectors; images in the Temple of Karnak show the army of Pharaoh Thothmes III returning from an expedition to Syria with a treasure chest of flowers some 3,500 years ago.
The world’s smallest flowering plant
The world’s smallest flowering plant is the tiny Asian Watermeal (Wolffia globosa) at less than 1mm across – and that’s the whole plant, not just the flower! As its name suggests, this little water plant is edible, and it is said to be highly nutritious – though you’d obviously need to collect an awful lot to make much of a meal.
The world’s biggest flower…and the smelliest
There’s a lot of confusion, however, over the world’s biggest flower – and the smelliest! The answer to both is the gruesomely named ‘Corpse Flower’, and that’s where the confusion begins, because this same name is applied to two quite different, though equally huge and smelly, plants – Amorphophallus titanium (also called the Titan Arum) and Rafflesia arnoldii.
Perhaps it doesn’t really matter, because in a way, they’re both right. The Titan Arum has the largest un-branched flower-spike in the world, while Rafflesia wins on weight; as for which smells the worst – well who cares? They’re both absolutely putrid!
There are an estimated 250,000 species of flowering plant in the world.
- A single bee normally visits between 50 and 1,000 individual flowers every day – although sometimes many more!
- Every kilo of honey is the result of an incredible 20,000 flower visits, and required around 1,000 individual foraging flights.
- The value of all the pollination work that bumblebees and honey-bees do has been estimated at an annual £200 million – and that’s just for growers in the UK alone! World-wide, it runs into countless billions.
- We all know about the importance of bees when it comes to pollination, but amazing though they are at doing the job, they’re not the only ones at it. Some kinds of flowering plants rely on birds, bats and a range of other insects too – and they’re just as busy as the bees, it seems; a humming bird, for instance, visits around 1,500 flowers on average, each day!
Although roses are widely accepted to be the world’s favourite flower, carnations are the UK’s most popular cut flowers.
The largest bouquet in the world is said to have been presented to President APJ Abdul Kalam of India in 2006. It is recorded as standing around 15 feet height and contained 175,000 individual flowers; appropriately enough it was presented at the International Flora Expo!
Of course, it’s not just heads of state who get sent flowers; according to the UK’s Flowers and Plants Association, every year the days leading up to the fourth Sunday in Lent form the biggest boost to the country’s florists, seeing sales rise by around 40 per cent. Why then? Well, it’s not that much of a mystery really; after all, in Britain, the fourth Sunday in Lent is otherwise known as Mother’s Day!
Whether you enjoy sending them, receiving them, smelling them or simply growing them, one thing’s for sure – there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to flowers!