How to Find 75 Black Flowers and a Scandal
One of my favorite black flowers is the Black Parrothead Tulip, a member of the fringed tulip variety shown in the photo below. It stands stunningly against white tulips and can be grouped successfully with almost any other color in an arrangement or garden setting.
Should Flowers be Black or Green?
An acquaintance asked me, "Why aren't plants black, to maximize light energy absorption?" it is a good question.
At least 75 plants are black instead of green (not entirely true, because some chlorophyll is still present), and this list targeted by author Paul Bonine in 2009 does not take into account species such as the Black Tomatoes group. He presents black flowers and foliage in a series of photographs and profiles.
When I read this Hub Question, I first recalled the striking set of white china I once saw that features a small black rose in the center of each plate, with narrow bands of black and gold around the outside rims. This was unexpected. Not long after this experience, however, I saw an actual black rose, several of them actually, at the local Whetstone Park of Roses in Central Ohio. Nature has a way of taking one aback with new ideas, black flowers being one of them.
Light Energy Absorption - Digestion Efficiency or Color?
In direct answer to the question, upwards of 3,000 plant species on earth are indeed black, partially black, or near-black and in low light, tend to become more green on average (see materials further below). There is some suggestion that on other planets, a larger proportion of the plant population might be black (reference: Scientific American 303, 20(2010) Black Plants and Twilight Zones by Bryn Nelson).
Another article suggests that 100% efficient digestion is the foundation of a "black" plant's ability to absorb the entire light spectrum and reflect black with only a bit of dark red, purple, or similar (reference: Carrie and Danielle: Why Are My "Black" Plants Green? October 27, 2010). However, digestion is not 100% efficient, scientific consensus being is that if it were so, the black plant would digest itself.
Regardless of all this, a "black" plant that reflects a bit of deep dark red is still entirely black to me, because dark red and black look identical to my brain. This phenomenon trips me up a bit every five years when I must take all those color-dot pattern tests to renew my driver's license.
Black Plants: 75 Striking Garden Choices
I find that in a fascinating book, author examines and describes 75 black flowering plants: annuals, bulbs, perennials, and even shrubs. Some of these are much darker varieties of well known species that people already enjoy. Others are quite rare. Additional related varieties are very dark red, purple-black, or deepest brown, but they look black. Paul Bonine
Each complete plant profile done by the Mr. Bonine describes the individual features of each black plant and easy instructions for growing and maintaining each. You might find that you'd like to try an all-black garden one year, or at least a corner. A black and white checkerboard is not out of reach.
Selection of Black PlantsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Advice From University Extension Services
The University of Vermont Extension Service offers information about black plants as well. They tell tell us that certain ground cover plants are also black and can be used to produce dramatic results. One very useful hint they provide is that the leaves of black plants grown in low light may begin to turn a bit green, because they need more chlorophyll.
This university office suggests a list of interesting black plants to try, both annuals and perennials: Queen of the Night, tulip, Blackie sweet potato vine, black ornamental grassed and black pansies. Suggestions go on to include black coleuses and even a dark bugleweed that is said to proliferate almost too quickly in some gardens.
All the planting suggestions given are viable in Zone 5 for planting as of 2011. The zones have changed somewhat across America in 2012, with Ohio being placed into Zone 6, and while Vermont is likely to be Zone 4, it is a good idea to check the planting zones here.
Plant Wars - The Black Plant Scandal of 2009
Author Karen Platt began writing about black plants in 2001 in UK and likely predates other writings about the subject. She founded the International Black Plant Society. In late 2009 a blogging world war began about what author first began to write about and catalogue black plants. Ms. Platt felt that she was the first author to do so and that other books on black plants were examples of copycat-itis.
A war of the book reviews on Amazon occurred as well. In light of all this, persons interested in books about black plants could read the reviews online at Amazon.com and decide for themselves. However, Ms. Platt claims knowledge of 2,750 species of black plants. Her book is Black Magic and Purple Passion. Lawsuits were threatened against bloggers and seemed to have lost steam in Spring 2010.
In the UK, Karen Platt has operated a nursery called Black Plant Nursery and has operated her society since 2002. She has also appeared ion BBC Radio and BBC Television. She has been a teacher and according to LinkedIn, she owns the Black Tulip Publishing company.
A smaller controversy surrounds the development of the first black petunia - was it the Black Cat Petunia mentioned on Mr. Brown Thumb's blog or was it Ball's Black Velvet Petunia?
Video Credit: GreenhouseGrower's Channel - YouTube
© 2012 Patty Inglish MS