In praise of the colour orange



As the sun sets, a fierce wind is blowing clouds over a ridge in the Cordillera de Tilarán, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The fire lily (Lilium bulbiferum), also called orange lily or tiger lily, is a stout plant, growing to about 1.2 m tall. It is widely distributed in montane areas, at altitudes between 500 and 1,900 m, from the Pyrenees eastwards to the Carpathians, and from northern Germany (Harz Mountains) southwards to the Balkans. This species is presented in detail on the page Plants – Mountain plants: Flora of the Alps.



Fire lily, Passo Gardena, Dolomites, Italy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Clouded yellows (Colias) are colourful butterflies, often called sulphurs or yellows, which counts about 300 species worldwide. They constitute a subfamily, Coliadinae, within the huge family Pieridae, with the common name whites.


The common clouded yellow (Colias croceus), which has an orange patch on the underwing, is widely distributed, from southern Europe and North Africa across the Middle East to northern India.



Common clouded yellow, feeding on a red star-thistle (Centaurea calcitrapa), Navarra, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Dawn, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Common lantana (Lantana camara), also called a number of other names, including feston rose plant, Westindian lantana, and Spanish flag, is a small shrub of the vervain family (Verbenaceae), which can grow to a height of about 2 m. It is native to the American tropics, but due to its pretty flowers, which come in many different colours, including red, orange, yellow, pink, or white, it has been introduced almost worldwide. In warmer countries, it often escapes, and as it is toxic to grazing animals, it often forms large thickets, out-competing natural vegetation.

Two of the colour forms of this plant, red and yellow, has given rise to the popular name Spanish flag, due to the similarity of these colours to the ones in the Spanish national flag.



Orange-flowered form of common lantana, growing on a dike around the Aogu Wetlands, south-western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



The flowers of this common lantana display three colours: yellow, orange, and purplish-red. – Bagua Shan, near Ershuei, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Weaverbirds are a family of passerines, Ploceidae, consisting of 15 genera, many of which are characterized by their intricately woven nests, made strips of grass blades, palm leaves, or other vegetation.


The male golden palm weaver (Ploceus bojeri) is bright yellow with an orange head. This bird has a rather restricted distribution, found in extreme southern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and eastern Kenya. It lives in savanna, preferably along rivers.



This male golden palm weaver is performing courtship display, sitting on the stem of a galingale (Cyperus), Meru National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Lychee (Litchi chinensis) is a tropical tree, which is native to south-eastern China, where it has been cultivated as far back as the 11th Century. However, due to the sweet flesh of its fruit, it is cultivated in many other places, including Southeast Asia, India, and South Africa. It is the sole member of the genus Litchi, which belongs to the soapberry family (Sapindaceae).



New leaves of lychee are often orange, here photographed in western Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Buddhist pagodas of various size and form abound in Myanmar. Bagan, in the central part of the country, is home to c. 2,200 ruined Theravada pagodas and temples. During the height of the Bagan Kingdom, between the 11th and 13th Centuries, more than 10,000 temples, pagodas, and monasteries were built in this area.

You may read more about pagodas on the page Religion: Buddhism.



Glorious morning sky behind Buddhist pagodas, Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The gorgeous white waterlily (Nymphaea alba) has a very wide distribution, found in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Temperate Asia, eastwards to Kashmir, northern India. In America, it is replaced by the very similar fragrant waterlily (Nymphaea odorata), which is also widely distributed, from northern Canada through the United States, Mexico, and Central America to northern South America.

A picture of blue waterlily (Nymphaea caerulea) may be seen on the page In praise of the colour blue.



Usually, the leaves of white waterlily are various shades of green, but, for some reason, this leaf in a pond on the island of Fanø, Denmark, has turned orange-yellow. The green stems in the foreground are common spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Males of the orange-headed gecko (Gonatodes albogularis) are very colourful, whereas the females are greyish. This species has a very wide distribution, found in many Caribbean islands, and from Mexico eastwards to northern South America. Formerly, it was also present in southern Florida, but this population died out in the 1990s.



Male orange-headed gecko, Parque Nacional de Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Sticky monkey-flower (Diplacus aurantiacus, formerly Mimulus aurantiacus), also named orange monkey-flower, is a shrubby herb, which grows to 1.2 m tall. The sticky, narrow leaves grow to 7 cm long, whereas the flower colour may be yellow, orange, or red.

This attractive plant is native to south-western United States, from Oregon southwards through much of California, just extending into Baja California. Formerly, members of the Miwok and Pomo tribes used it medicinally for treatment of wounds, burns, diarrhoea, and eye trouble.



Orange-flowered form of sticky monkey-flower, Crystal Cove State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The orange weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) has a wide distribution, found in India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines, south through Indonesia to northern Australia. The name weaver ant stems from their nest, which is made by ‘weaving’ together leaves, using larval silk. A colony of these ants may include several nests in a single tree, or the nests may be spread over several adjacent trees. In one instance, a colony occupied 151 nests, distributed among 12 trees. A colony may count up to half a million individuals. Each colony has a single queen in one nest, from which her progeny is carried to other nests. (Source:, with a list of references).



Orange weaver ants, sitting on their nest, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Rusted tin sheets on a wall, Valparaiso, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines), of the family Pieridae, was named after the orange wingtips of the male. The female lacks the orange colour and resembles cabbage whites (Pieris). This species is distributed in the major part of Europe and temperate parts of Asia, eastwards to Japan. Its larvae feed on leaves of various members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), preferably cuckoo-flower (Cardamine pratensis) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).



Male orange-tip, sucking nectar in a flower of blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna), Møn, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Hawk’s-beard (Crepis) are a huge genus, comprising about 200 species, distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and Africa, with the core area around the Mediterranean. The generic name is derived from the Greek krepis (‘slipper’ or ‘sandal’), according to some authorities referring to the shape of the fruit.


The most beautiful member of this genus is probably golden hawk’s-beard (Crepis aurea), which is distributed in European mountains, in the Jura, the Alps, the Apennines, the Abruzzos, and on the Balkans, and it is also found in Asia Minor. In the Alps, it grows in meadows and pastures, preferably on acid soil, at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,900 m.



Golden hawk’s-beard, Turracher Höhe, Austria. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The commonest African fruit-bat is the straw-coloured fruit-bat (Eidolon helvum), which lives in sub-Saharan savannas and forest, southwards to South Africa, and also in the south-western part of the Arabian Peninsula.



At dusk, great numbers of straw-coloured fruit-bats leave their day roost in Kasanka National Park, Zambia, in search of ripe fruit. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The orange (Citrus x sinensis) is a hybrid between pomelo (C. maxima) and mandarin (C. reticulata). It originated in China and was mentioned in Chinese literature as early as 314 B.C. (Source: Xu et al. 2013. The draft genome of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis). Nature Genetics. 45: 59-66)

Incidentally, the name of the colour orange stems from the fruit – not the other way around. The word comes from the Old French orange, which, in turn, is from the Italian arancia, based on Arabic naranj, which is derived from the Sanskrit word for the fruit, naranga.



In warmer countries, the orange tree blossoms year-round. This tree on the Greek island of Crete has flowers and fruit simultaneously. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



A mountain of oranges, prepared to be sold at a market in the town of Weining, Guizhou Province, China. Each fruit is wrapped individually in a plastic bag. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This street vendor in Varanasi, India, is selling oranges and other fruits and vegetables, including eggplants, tomatoes, apples, and grapes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Parts of this leaf, observed near Pokhara, Nepal, have turned orange and yellow, presumably due to a fungus attack. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






California sister (Adelpha californica) is a butterfly of the brushfoot family (Nymphalidae), distributed from Oregon and Nevada, south through California to northern Baja California. It is easily identified by the orange or yellow patch near the wingtip.



California sister, observed at Kings Canyon River, Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Lotus is a huge genus of the pea family (Fabaceae), comprising at least 130 species. The popular name of these plants is bird’s-foot trefoil, the trefoil part referring to the tripartite leaves, whereas bird’s-foot refers to their triple pods, which spread out from a common point, hereby resembling a bird’s foot.

Some DNA studies indicate that North American plants, which were formerly included in Lotus, should be placed in other genera, while other studies indicate that they should be retained in Lotus.


Common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is widely distributed in Temperate Eurasia, growing in drier habitats with low vegetation. In the Himalaya, it is found between 1,500 and 4,000 m altitude, from Pakistan east to central Nepal.



As flowers of common bird’s-foot trefoil age, they often become bright orange. This picture is from the island of Fanø, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






In 2008, following genetic studies, a group of thrushes, encompassing c. 21 species, which were traditionally placed in the genus Zoothera, were moved to the genus Geokichla. This genus was established in 1836 by German naturalist Salomon Müller (1804-1864), who explored parts of Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia) between 1826 and 1835. The generic name is from the Greek geo (‘ground’) and kikhle (‘thrush’), referring to the almost exclusively ground-feeding habit of these birds.


Eleven subspecies of the pretty orange-headed ground-thrush (Geokichla citrina) are distributed along the entire Himalayan Range, in eastern and Southern India, on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in Indochina, southern and eastern China, and northern Borneo, and on Java and Bali. It is resident in the major part of this huge area, but some northern populations are migratory, spending the winter in north-eastern and southern India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and southern China.

Subspecies cyanota of southern India is very distinct, having a white face with two vertical black streaks below and behind the eye. It has been suggested that it forms a separate species, but intermediate forms occur where its range overlaps with that of nominate citrina.



This picture shows the distinct subspecies cyanota of orange-headed ground-thrush, encountered in Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The coast hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is native to islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, coastal Australia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, and Taiwan. It has also become naturalized elsewhere in tropical parts of the world. This species is mainly coastal, but may be found up to an altitude of 300 m. The specific name was given in allusion to its leaves, which resemble leaves of linden species (Tilia).



When withering, the flowers of coast hibiscus changes colour from yellow to orange. – Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Even though the Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus) is called redstart, it is more orange than red. The male has orange-red breast, belly, and tail, black face, throat, and back, greyish crown and nape, and a prominent white wing-patch. Like most of the 14 species in this genus, the Daurian redstart is strongly sexually dimorphic, the female being pale brown with an orange-red tail. Like the male, however, it has a prominent white wing-patch.

This species breeds in south-eastern Siberia, from Lake Baikal eastwards to Amurland, Ussuriland, and Sakhalin, and in Mongolia, Tibet, most of China, and northern Korea, wintering in southern China, Japan, Taiwan, north-eastern India, and Southeast Asia.

In former days, redstarts were regarded as being small thrushes, belonging to the family Turdidae. However, DNA research has revealed that they are in fact flycatchers of the family Muscicapidae.



Daurian redstart is a common winter visitor in Taiwan. These pictures, depicting a male and a female, are from Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Plants of the genus Calochortus can be divided into three distinct groups: mariposa tulips, or mariposa lilies, which have open, wedge-shaped petals; globe lilies with globe-shaped flowers; and cat’s ears and star tulips, which have erect, pointed petals. These gorgeous lilies are almost exclusively found in the western United States. The generic name is from the Greek kalos (‘beautiful’) and chortos (‘grass’).

Other pictures of these lilies may be studied on the page Quotes on nature.



This orange-red Kennedy’s mariposa tulip (Calochortus kennedyi), growing in Saguaro West National Park, Arizona, contrasts sharply with the greyish desert soil. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Minivets (Pericrocotus) are c. 15 species of passerines, belonging to the cuckoo-shrike family (Campephagidae). They are found in forests from eastern Iran and Afghanistan eastwards across the Indian Subcontinent and China to Russian Ussuriland, and thence southwards through Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines to Indonesia. Several of the species are very colourful, the males displaying a predominantly bright red plumage, the females predominantly a yellow plumage.


The brilliantly coloured orange minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus) lives in dense forests, from western India and Sri Lanka eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. Formerly, this species was regarded as a subspecies of the scarlet minivet, which is now called Pericrocotus speciosus.



Male orange minivet, Anshi National Park, Karnataka, India. The female is yellow and black. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Jerdon’s minivet (Pericrocotus albifrons) is one of the less colourful minivets. It is restricted to Myanmar, where it lives in dry deciduous forests. The male can be told from the female by its orange-red chest spot. Many authorities regard this species as a subspecies of the white-bellied minivet (P. erythropygius), which has a patchy distribution in India.

The popular name commemorates British physician and naturalist Thomas Caverhill Jerdon (1811-1872) who described many birds species in India, several of which are named after him.



Male Jerdon’s minivet, Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a small tree of the rose family (Rosaceae). It is native to cooler mountain regions of southern China, but was introduced to Japan at a very early stage. It was initially described by German physician and botanist Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), who lived in Japan 1690-92. Later, in 1712, Swedish botanist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a pupil of the famous Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), provided a more elaborate description.

Formerly, it was thought that loquat was closely related to the common medlar (Mespilus germanica), reflected in the alternative name Japanese medlar. It is also sometimes called Japanese plum. Today, this species is cultivated for its delicious orange fruits, and also as an ornamental plant, in most warmer regions of the world.



Loquat tree with fruits, Andalusia, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Snacks in the province of Guizhou, China: loquats and peanuts (Arachis hypogaea). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Orange evening light on skyscrapers, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), also called Indian kapok tree or simal, is a large tree of the mallow family (Malvaceae), native to Tropical Asia, southern China, and northern Australia. It is widely cultivated elsewhere for its gorgeous flowers, which are bright red in wild populations. In Taiwan, however, where the pictures below were taken, a cultivated form with orange flowers is mainly seen.

This species has countless medical usages, and is also utilized for many other purposes. You may read about this usage on the page Traditional medicine.



Flowering silk-cotton trees, Tunghai University Park, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Fallen flowers form a carpet on a lawn in Tunghai University Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Many bird species feed in flowers of the silk-cotton tree, in this case a Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus), Tunghai University Park. This bird is described on the page Animals: Birds in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Horned poppies (Glaucium) are named after their horn-shaped fruits. The flower colour of the red horned poppy (G. corniculatum), which is distributed from southern Europe eastwards to Central Asia, varies from dark red to dark orange.

Many more poppy species are shown on the pages In praise of the colour red and In praise of the colour yellow.



Orange form of red horned poppy, photographed in western Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The orange-peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia), of the family Pyronemataceae, grows on bare soil. It is distributed throughout Europe, and in parts of Asia and North America, and has also been found in southern Chile. The common name stems from its brilliantly orange, cup-shaped ascocarps, which often resemble orange peels, strewn on the ground. The specific name, from the Latin aurantia (‘orange’) was applied in 1800 by mycologist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), who was born in South Africa, but moved to Europe in his twenties.



Orange-peel fungus, found at an altitude of 2,500 m, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) is a beautiful composite of open grasslands and wastelands, which is native to the major part of Europe, as well as north-western and central parts of Asia. Due to its pretty flowerheads, it has also been introduced to a number of other countries, including England, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, it easily escapes and often becomes invasive, and in the latter two countries, import of the plant is prohibited.

This species has a number of peculiar common names, including fox-and-cubs, Devil’s paintbrush, and Grim-the-Collier (another name for the Devil). The name fox-and-cubs refers to the fact that the flowerheads on a plant do not all open at the same time. An open flowerhead is likened to a fox, whereas the buds beside it are the cubs. The other names refer to the invasiveness of this species.



Orange hawkweed, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Flame-vine (Pyrostegia venusta), also called orange trumpetvine, is a climber of the family Bignoniaceae. It is a native of Brazil, but due to its brilliant flowers, it was introduced to numerous other countries at an early stage. The generic name is from the Greek pyro (‘fire’) and stegia (‘cover’), the former referring to the flower colour, the latter to its vigorous climbing habit, as it will often cover entire buildings. The specific name stems from Ancient Italian wenostos (‘beautiful’).



Flame-vine, covering a fence in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Orange-yellow lichens often cover rocks or trunks of old trees and other plants. Some examples are shown below.


Orange lichens (Xanthoria) are a worldwide genus of the family Teloschistaceae, commonly growing on tree bark, walls, or rocks. They may be identified by the distinctive ‘fairy cups’ the sporocarps (fruiting bodies).

Common orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina), also called yellow scale or shore lichen, has a very wide distribution, found in most of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America. It is one of the few lichens, which is favoured by eutrophication, being very common on rocks, large trees, roofs, walls, etc. The specific name parietina, from the Latin paries (‘wall’), was applied by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, in 1753.



Common orange lichen, growing on a branch of an old common oak (Quercus robur), growing on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. Plenty of sporocarps are present. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



A species of orange lichen, probably Xanthoria aureola, creates patterns on a coastal rock on Bornholm. As opposed to the common orange lichen, this species produces very few sporocarps. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



These coastal rocks on Bornholm are also covered by a species of orange lichen, likewise probably Xanthoria aureola. Incidentally, the rocks resemble a large-eyed frog (left) and a wide-mouthed toad. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Together with a dark species of moss, this orange lichen creates patterns on a slanting rock, Grossglockner, Austria. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Colourful orange and yellow lichens on a rock, Pinnacles National Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Orange milkwort (Polygala lutea) is found in eastern United States, from southern Maine southwards to Florida, and thence westwards to Louisiana. It is especially common in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The specific name is Latin for ‘yellow’, referring to the distinctive colour of the flowers when dried. When fresh, they are bright orange, differing from most other milkworts, which have blue, pinkish, or white flowers.



Orange milkwort, Carolina Beach State Park, North Carolina. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




(Uploaded February 2020)