This amazing plant shows the extraordinary ability for plants to adapt themselves through structure and light limitation.
While your average plant will display leaves of various shades of green, there is one plant residing in the rainforests of southeast Asia that will go against the grain.
Officially named Begonia pavonina, or alternatively “peacock begonia”, the plant shimmers a bright blue color due to the adaptation of low level sunlight. Heather Whitney, a specialist in plant surface interactions at Bristol University, and her team examined the plant cells honing in on the photosynthetic structures called iridoplasts. Similar to chloroplasts, iridoplasts form the basis for photosynthesis.
There was one difference it had from a typical plant, and that was the shape of the iridoplasts. They were layered and separated by a thin layer of liquid which means the light passing through them gets bent creating a shimmer. As a result of the lack of light on the rainforest floor, this means it absorbs long wavelengths like green and red but actually reflects back the blue shimmered color.
“We found a striking difference between the ‘blue’ chloroplasts found in the begonias, also known as ‘iridoplasts’ due to their brilliant blue iridescent colouration, and those found in other plants,” said Matt Jacobs, a PhD student and co-author of the study, in a statement. “The inner structure had arranged itself into extremely uniform layers just a few 100 nanometres in thickness, or a 1,000th the width of human hair.”
The find is a great example of plants ancient ability to adapt to its surroundings and create the greatest absorption of light the best way possible. Plants that lived hundreds and thousands of years ago were more purple colored due to their need to make use of the best available light and overcome their limitations of structure.
Details of the study were published in the journal Nature Plants.