"Our word for the color orange comes from the translated 'naranja,' the Spanish word for the citrus fruit introduced to the English-speaking world through the court of Henry VIII in 1512. Oranges are native to Southeast Asia and were once known as 'Chinese apples.' Before the fruit was introduced to Britain, the color was known in Old English as 'geoluhread,' which means yellow-red, a fitting descriptor because orange is the combination of those two primary colors.
Orange flowers get their color from carotene, the same biological pigment found in carrots. And although flowering plants are noted for their wide range of colors, there are pitifully few orange flowers. As it turns out, nature is rather parsimonious with the color.
The famous Peterson's Field Guide of Wildflowers first published in 1968, divides its contents by color. The book contains 1,293 wildflowers. There are 104 pages of yellow flowers, 100 pages of red ones, 96 of white and 50 of violet to blue. But, hold onto your hat, there’s only four pages of orange. Yes, four! There are more pages of green and brown flowers than orange. If you want to become an expert at flower identification, start with orange, there’s not that many to learn.
Why nature shuns the color is a mystery..."
For the rest of the article I penned about the scarcity of orange flowers check out the May/June 2010 issue of the Tennessee Conservationist now available.
Special thanks to editor Louise Zepp and to Kris Light for providing me with the cover photograph.