extract from: THE
FLOWER GARDEN by Penelope Hobhouse
the Chapter entitled 'The Attraction of Flowers'
of our flowering garden plants are angiosperms, with a decorative flower
structure composed of a modified leaf shoot having two functions: to
protect the reproductive organs and to assure appropriate pollination.
Flowers pollinated by wind tend to be relatively small and inconspicuous;
they produce neither scent nor nectar, and their colouring is incidental
rather than being attuned to the vision of some bird or insect.
more elaborate structures we admire in countless flower species have
infinite complexities of colour, form and scent, which evolved over
millions of years, closely parralled by the evolution of living pollinators
of various kinds.
active participants are very often insects, but also include birds,
snails and bats. As these creatures travel and visit flowers (usually
in search of food), they bring about fertilization by transferring pollen
from the flower's male organ to the receptive female organs, which then
form seed. The male and female organs may be in the same flower, in
a separate flower of the same plant, or even ( as with most hollies
) on separate plants of the same species. In very many instances the
flowers whose appearance people find most intriguing have their floral
parts organised in such a way as to avoid self-pollination and instead
assure cross-fertilization by means of these visiting agents.
order to assure cross-pollination, some species possess special flower
shapes, or allow their female and male organs to mature at different
moments. The shape of the flower is sometimes designed to attract and
admit the intended pollinator while excluding undesirables. Some complicated
flowers such as the snap-dragon-shapes of antirrhinium and linaria will
only 'open' when an insect pollinator of the appropriate size and weight
lands on the lower lip. The higher insects such as bees are able to
follow sophisticated visual signals marking the path to the nectary,
and often have to force their way through the folds of the flower to
is another adaptation, aimed to attract from a distance pollinating
insects that possess a well developed sense of smell. Flowers scents
are often extremely pleasing to human tastes, but the smell of rotting
meat that lures the carrion-flies to pollinate arum flowers demonstrates
that this is not invariably so.
flowers such as night scented stock, tobacco plants and the Chilean
Cestrum perqui emit their fragrance only at evening when colours
fade. Others only open as dusk falls. In the case of evening primroses,
the flowers open as daylight fail and do not close till dawn. Many attract
night-flying moths, which have a keen sense of smell: the evolutionary
appearance of honey suckle in the Eocene era is know to have coincided
with the emergence of the long-tongued moths. A particularly specialized
relationship in North America is the interdependance between night-scented
yucca and the moth Pronuba yuccasella , in which the female moth
fertilizes the yucca flower while laying its eggs: moth larvae and flower
seeds develop together.' Interactive Art and Flowers have much in
passive 'gaze' encumbered spectator looks on in amazement occasionally
throwing seeds in the wind and generally failing to pollinate (or understand)
a work of art.
art allows the human insect to enter and in so doing pollinate the artwork
in such a way as to effect constant change in the multi-dimensional
'growth' of the artwork. The artist simulating the role of 'nature'
begins a new and closer relationship to the individuals and groups previously
know as the 'audience'.
FLOWER GARDEN - Penelope Hobhouse ISBN 0-207-17369-9
Robertson Publishers from an original imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
Sheerer A/Lecturer I.C.I.P