Salvia Small Talk: Why Birds Love Red Flowers
Color, shape and smell are characteristics that affect whether a bird or insect will dive into a flower in search of food. Whereas bees seem not to notice red at all, it is the go-to color that most birds look for at mealtime. In contrast, it is mainly aroma that draws bees and insects to plants. Birds, however, have little sense of smell.
Scientists theorize that long beaks and tubular blossoms transformed over time to fit each other's needs for survival. Now, Australian researchers think red flowers may also have developed 'spectral signatures' or colors that only birds can see.
Reporting on a winter 2013 article in the journal New Phytologist, the Science Daily website said researchers at Melbourne's New Monash University think some flowers, over many generations, gradually moved away from insect pollinators toward bird pollinators. They think the flowers shifted their color toward the longer wavelengths of the red spectrum that bees can't see.
We love honeybees and appreciate the fertility they bring to gardens. However, if you are allergic to honeybee stings, or stings from wasps and other insects in the order Hymenoptera, you may want to increase the quantity of red flowers with long tubular blossoms in your garden. Some possible choices include:
- Oaxaca Red Sage (Salvia adenophora)
- Red Velvet Sage (Salvia confertiflora)
- Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
For more red Salvias please click on Salvias by Color in the menu bar on our homepage and select Red Flowered. When reading an individual plant page, look for the 'Cultural Icons' tab at the bottom of the page. This will lead you to information including what kind of wildlife the plant attracts. Also, don't forget that you are always welcome to contact us with questions.