Clandestine Seducers

Ana Lucia Ralda
3 min readJan 25, 2022


By Ana Lucia Ralda Diaz. January 21, 2022. Published in BloomTV Blog:

Have you ever caught a whiff of jasmine from afar and become so enchanted by the sweet aroma that you went out of your way to get a stronger sniff, perhaps a flower to take with you?

That is the tiny jasmine’s grandiose invitation that you accepted. This sort of invitation is not merely one of vanity nor insecurity that demands reassurance. Flowers deserve far more recognition than we give them.

Two hundred million years ago, there were no flowers. The world was populated mainly by mosses, gymnosperms, and cold-blooded reptiles — it was not the colorful, effusive oasis of our day. The emergence of flowering plants changed everything.

When they first appeared on Earth during the Cretaceous period, angiosperms, as botanists call flowering plants, relied on wind and water to spread around their seeds. With time, they discovered that a more effective way to reproduce was to persuade animals to transport their seeds for them.

Over millennia, flowers learned to play with animals’ desires by developing distinct modes of sensory stimuli to attract specific pollinators. Those who managed to be more successful at captivating their intended animal were the ones who could multiply and flourish. In exchange for transport, flowering plants also began to produce nectars, pollen, and fruits that animals could use for sustenance.

Pollen is more than just microscopic seeds — it is one of the primary sources of protein for the bees and beetles that help pollinate the many plants we humans enjoy. Nectar and fruits also contain more than just sugars — they have amino acids, minerals, and vitamins in combinations that satisfy the pollinators’ nutritional needs, whether it be a bee or a human being.

Following the Cretaceous period, the Paleocene marked the first period of the Cenozoic era, also known as the age of mammals and flowering plants. The relationship between flowers and their pollinators resulted in the rapid proliferation of the world’s food supply, making it possible for warm-blooded mammals to thrive. If it were not for flowers, we would not be here today.

Every flower tells a different story, the story of their evolution here on Earth. The vast diversity of color, form, and scent we find in flowers is a direct result of the intimate relationships they have with their pollinators and their environments.

You can look at a flower and deduce all sorts of interesting things about the tastes and the desires of bees, for example; that they like sweetness and symmetry, contrary to beetles, who prefer stronger, mustier odors and require wide-open petals to land on.

If you dig deeper, you’ll also uncover that some of these adaptations are not as obvious to human sensibilities. For instance, some flowers that rely on bees to pollinate them have areas of ultraviolet reflection, invisible to the human eye, that help guide the bee towards the pollen.

Other flower species go as far as to impersonate their pollinators to attract them. An example of this is the copper beard orchid, which imitates the shape and scent of the female scoliid wasp. While attempting to mate with the flower, the male wasp provides the pollination service that enables this cleverly beautiful flower to reproduce.

Flowers don’t only depend on and benefit insects, birds, and smaller mammals. Humans also have an intrinsic connection to flowers — they have shaped us as much as we have shaped them.

In addition to giving us the privilege of their taste and nourishment, numerous flowering plants also have medicinal properties that have been a part of human culture and healing practices forever. Many of the components used to create pharmaceuticals today still come from plants.

Understanding how flowers have evolved and how they communicate with their environment, to the point of having such a remarkable effect on it, suddenly puts into perspective the limitations that humans and our consciousness have over nature.

Recognizing the limitations of our human perception allows us to find meaning that is not only of our human making. To us a red rose might symbolize love, but to the butterfly that pollinates it, a red rose represents a fountain of ailment.

While humans have learned to manipulate nature with fire, metal, stone, and reason, flowers have quietly perfected the language of seduction through biochemical processes far beyond our perception and imagination. We are equally as sophisticated, just in different ways.



Ana Lucia Ralda

Guatemalan journalist and storyteller. I report on social and climate justice, gender issues, education, arts and culture.