Why do flowers point up or down?

Botanist Phil Gates discusses the adaptations of flowering plants.

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) © Andia / UIG / Getty

So important is the relationship between flowers and their pollinators that it is a major driving force in the generation of biological diversity.


A flower’s scent, shape and colour are all tuned to attract its preferred pollinators. Even its precise orientation is important.

Two very closely related species of the South African Zaluzianskya plant, for example, differ only in that the flowers of one point skyward while the other’s are more droopy.

The former are attractive to hawkmoths, and the latter to long-tongued flies.

This simple difference keeps the two species genetically isolated from each other, ensuring that they follow independent evolutionary paths.

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Main image: Hollyhock flower. © Andia/UIG/Getty