Lorelei Stierlen, 2014 –
Both photos are of the beautiful Blackland Prairie native coreopsis tinctoria or plains coreopsis. A member of the Asteraceae (Aster) family, it is an annual forb, and the blooms are described as yellow surrounding a reddish centre – but the blooms of one of these plants is all red. How can that be?
The underlying causes of flower colour polymorphism are an area of on-going research. Natural genetic mutation is one likely cause; pollinator selection, specifically bees, are also under study as a factor in determining flower colour. In self-pollinating species, biotic (herbivory) and abiotic (drought) stressors are under consideration as possible reasons for these variations.
Nature still has many mysteries to offer us – we’ll be looking for these all-red variants this spring.