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Colors matter, at least when it comes to studying plants: a study reveals that the most striking are investigated more

Hemlock is a plant that, by boat soon, is not very showy. Its stem is green with red spots, nothing striking beyond its size, which can be up to 2.5 meters; its small, white flowers are not exactly pretty either. But appearances can be deceiving, because this seemingly boring plant is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. In fact, the philosopher Socrates died after drinking a cup poisoned with hemlock.

What’s the point? A study published in the journal Nature Plants states that researchers they tend to pay more attention to the more showy and distinctive plants, leaving more aside the rare or endangered plants.

Blue flowers> Green flowers


For this study, the researchers reviewed 280 studies conducted between 1975 and 2020 on 113 plant species southwest of the Alps. This area is very interesting for this type of study, since it is estimated that there are about 30,000 species of wild flowers.

The researchers collected data on the morphology of the plants, see size and color, their ecology and their rarity. After analyzing the data, they found that plants with blue flowers have been the most studied. Interestingly, the blue color is one of the least frequent in flowers.

The next most studied were plants with red, pink or white flowers and, finally, plants with green or brown flowers. Those with tall stalks also received more attention by the scientific community.


One of the reasons for this is, according to the researchers, that blue, red, pink and white flowers stand out more on the ground than greens and browns. In addition, the fact that the stem is high helps them to be collected more easily. “A greater height of the stem implies that the species are more showy, but also taller; thus, their inflorescences are more easily accessible without the researchers having to bend to the ground”, they explain in the study.

And what implications do these preferences have? According to the researchers, this bias affects the representativeness of the data used to inform research priorities and conservation policies. In the words of the researchers, this bias “runs the risk of compromising efforts to effectively target plant conservation activities and preserve plant biodiversity “.

Kingsley Dixon, a botanist at the University of Curtin (Australia) and co-author of the study, explains to Scientific American that “we may be losing species that could be in rapid decline towards extinction, and we don’t even have basic information about seed banks for their conservation. “

Vía | Scientific American