Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments which are responsible for most of the pink, red, mauve and blue colours of plants. They are all based on a single aromatic structure—that of the 3,5,7,3′,4′-pentahydroxyflavylium cation, cyanidin (I). The colour of this substance is altered by the addition or removal of a hydroxyl group or by methylation or glycosylation. Such modifications in structure are known to be controlled in the flowers of many higher plants by single gene substitutions. The anthocyanins present in series of colour mutants of garden flowers are thus suitable material for studying the biochemical effects of gene action. Such studies have in fact provided most of the present knowledge of the biochemical genetics of higher plants (34). Flower and fruit colours are undoubtedly of adaptive value in relation to animal pollen vectors, and the primary function of the anthocyanins is to attract insects and birds to plants. The suggestion of Moewus (68) that anthocyanins play an active part in the sexuality of plants by acting as hormones has not been substantiated by later workers (81).


Cinnamic Acid Sugar Residue Sour Cherry Anthocyanin Pigment Sugar Component 
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© Springer-Verlag in Vienna 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. B. Harborne
    • 1
  1. 1.HertfordEngland

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