If a thorough research is carried out on a plant, then it should get beautiful, preferably blue flowers. In contrast, rare or threatened species are not particularly popular with experts. This is the result of a working group led by Martineau Adamou of the University of Turin based on an analysis of 280 publications from Plant Research in the southwestern Alps. As the team says in Nature Plants:Plants with colored flowers are disproportionately represented compared to green or brown varieties. This indicates that botanists are often guided by aesthetic considerations when choosing a topic for their research. This effect is also known in animals.
As a case study for their investigation, Adamo and his team chose the southwestern Alps, a well-explored region with high biodiversity. According to their own statements, this limitation enabled them to have better control over potential disruptive factors. The team compared the characteristics of the 113 examined plants, including color, size, habitat and abundance, with the number of leaves published. The result: The most important factor in choosing appears to be appearance.
This mainly affects the color of the flowers. According to the analysis, species with white and red flowers are represented twice as often as one would expect, and blue flowers more than three times. On the other hand, characteristics that would be expected to be of greater scientific interest – for example special habitats or an entry in the Red List of Endangered Species – played no role.
This preference for charismatic types is a problem that has been described repeatedly in biological research. Many experts fear that in this way less beautiful organisms will end up in the blind spot to protect the species; Studies like the one by Adamo’s team should help make the botanical research more balanced. How to cure the professional world of their longing for the blue flower, the team has yet to find a good solution.