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What natural things are purple?

What natural things are purple?

Purple is an enchanting color that captures our imagination. In nature, purple hues are relatively rare and often signify something special. Many natural things contain anthocyanin pigments that can produce shades of purple under the right conditions. By exploring examples in the plant and animal kingdoms, as well as in geology and astronomy, we gain appreciation for nature’s stunning purple treasures.

Purple Flowers

Flowers provide some of the most vivid purple hues in nature. Many species contain anthocyanin pigments in their petals and other structures that reflect purple light. Here are some examples of popular purple flowers:

Flower Scientific Name
Lilac Syringa
Lavender Lavandula
Iris Iris
Hyacinth Hyacinthus
Purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea
Allium Allium
Violet Viola
Orchid Orchidaceae

These are just a few examples of the many flowers that come in shades of purple in the wild. The depth of color can vary based on soil conditions, sunlight, and genetics. Some species also have cultivated varieties with richer purple hues.

Purple Fruits and Vegetables

A range of fruits and vegetables contain natural pigments that create rich shades of purple when ripe. Here are some common natural foods that are purple:

Fruit/Vegetable Scientific Name
Eggplant Solanum melongena
Purple sweet potato Ipomoea batatas
Purple cabbage Brassica oleracea
Purple cauliflower Brassica oleracea
Purple carrot Daucus carota subsp. sativus
Purple asparagus Asparagus officinalis
Blackberries Rubus fruticosus
Elderberries Sambucus nigra
Purple figs Ficus carica
Purple grapes Vitis vinifera
Purple plums Prunus domestica

The deep purple hues come from anthocyanins and other antioxidant pigments. These pigments not only provide vibrant color, but also offer potential health benefits. Fruits and vegetables with purple shades tend to be high in compounds that can help reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and provide other advantages.

Purple Trees and Foliage

Along with flowers and fruits, some tree species have naturally purple leaves, stems, bark, or other structures:

Tree/Plant Scientific Name
Jacaranda Jacaranda mimosifolia
Purple leaf plum Prunus cerasifera
Purple leaf sand cherry Prunus x cistena
Purple smoke bush Cotinus coggygria
Purple fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum
Purple basil Ocimum basilicum
Purple shamrock Oxalis regnellii
Purple heart Tradescantia pallida
Persian shield Strobilanthes dyerianus

The striking purple tones in the leaves and stems come from anthocyanins and other pigments. Along with aesthetics, these pigments help protect the plants from sun damage. Many purple-foliage plants grow best in full sun, where the pigments are enhanced under intense light.

Purple Gemstones

One of the most prized types of purple in nature comes from gemstones. Various mineral impurities and structures can create purple hues in crystals and gem-quality stones. Here are some of the main purple gemstones:

Purple garnet
Purple spinel
Purple sapphire
Purple diamond
Purple tourmaline

Of these, amethyst is the most common purple gemstone and is composed of quartz. Trace amounts of iron within the stone result in the characteristic purple color. Other purple gems like sugilite and charoite are much rarer. Purple diamonds and sapphires exhibit a phenomenon called color change, shifting between purple and other hues. These exotic purple gems are highly coveted in jewelry for their beauty and mystique.

Purple Animals

While less common than in the plant kingdom, some animals also display stunning purple and violet tones:

Animal Scientific Name
Violet sabrewing hummingbird Campylopterus hemileucurus
Purple frog Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis
Indigo snake Drymarchon corais
Violet-tailed sylph hummingbird Aglaiocercus coelestis
Giant purple emperor butterfly Apatura iris
Violet goby fish Gobioides broussonnetii
Purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus
Violet jellyfish Drymonema dalmatinum
Violet birdwing butterfly Trogonoptera charmosyna

These creatures get their purple tones from specialized cells and structures rather than pigments. For example, the feathers of hummingbirds contain air bubbles and flattened cells that refract light to produce iridescent purple. Other animals like the purple frog and urchin have physical chromatophore cells that reflect light selectively. These adaptations help animals communicate, attract mates, evade predators, and blend into their environments.

Purple Natural Landscapes

At a grander scale, some impressive landscapes and geological formations display purple hues:

Landscape Location
Purple mountain majesties Rocky Mountains, USA
ZiMapurple JiuZhaiGou Park, China
Purple Island (Io) Mediterranean Sea
Lavender fields Provence, France
Jacaranda trees Pretoria, South Africa
Hepburn Springs Australia
volcanic amythest Iceland
Bavanat purple village Iran

The “purple mountain majesties” in the Rocky Mountains get their color from dark minerals deposited in the stone. At certain times and from certain angles, the mountains take on a rich purple glow. Similarly, the purple landscape at Jiuzhaigou results from mineral lakes and vegetation. Other purple landscapes arise from human cultivation like lavender fields, jacaranda tree groves, and painted villages. The dynamic interplay of light, minerals, and life forms purple landscapes both natural and cultivated.

Purple Nebulae and Galaxies

Venturing into the cosmos, many wondrous nebulae and galaxies shine in purple:

Horsehead Nebula
Lagoon Nebula
Butterfly Nebula
Skull Nebula
Eagle Nebula
Iris Nebula
Bug Nebula
Purple Forbidden City (NGC 1187)

These purple cosmic objects form from clouds of ionized gases like hydrogen and helium. Radiation from stars causes the gases to emit a red glow, while blue light reflects from dust, combining to create the vivid purple color. The shapes arise from differences in density within the clouds. Over eons, these nebulae may gravitationally collapse to form new stars and planetary systems. Their subtle purple hues inspire awe and imagination when viewed from earth.


Purple stands out as an uncommon and coveted color throughout the natural world. In flowers, fruits, gems, animals, landscapes, and galaxies, purple signifies the unique and the exquisite. Nature produces these regal purple tones through ingenious combinations of specialized cells, pigments, minerals, and physical structures under the right conditions. Beyond beauty, purple’s rarity in nature often indicates biological advantage and value. Understanding examples of purple things provides insight into the remarkable chemistry and physics behind natural color.