Blue Leaves Of Begonias Help Them Survive In Forest Darkness

Posted: Oct 25 2016, 5:00am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Blue Leaves of Begonias Help Them Survive in Forest Darkness
Iridescent Begonia. Credit: University of Bristol
  • Some Begonias have Energy-Collecting Methods that Work on a Nanoscale Level
 

Apparently, some begonias have energy-collecting methods that work on a nanoscale level. Their blue leaves have chloroplasts that trap light and thus help them thrive on the forest floor.

So many still believe nanotechnology to be a sci-fi entity. Yet it is more real than they can imagine. The blue coloration on the leaves of some begonias has chloroplasts in it. These employ a sophisticated nano-scale light-harvesting technique to allow them to survive on the forest floor.

The researchers found that certain species of plants that were often grown in homes, such as begonias, use photonics to form structures in their leaves that help them use light for photosynthesis. 

The begonia is an admirable houseplant that is well-known for its fancy leaves and flowers. These species can thrive in an indoor environment without much in the way of sunlight. That is why many of these begonias grow on the tropical forest floor.

The light reaching the bottom of the forest is very limited in range. Thus the plants need to literally scavenge what little light comes their way. There are over 1500 species of begonia. Some of them have a bright blue sheen on their leaves.  

What exact purpose this bright blue sheen had remained a mystery until now. At first it was thought to ward off predators or keep too much light at bay. Yet now we know better.

The leaves developed a blue sheen in dark circumstances yet this blue sheen disappeared when the plant was placed in sunlight. Chloroplasts in the leaves were observed underneath a microscope.

They reflected blue light like a mirror would. The blue chloroplasts were called iridoplasts. Their inner structure showed them to consist of several layers that were 100 nanometers in thickness. These resembled lasers. 

The photonics experts managed to gain enough savvy about these iridoplasts. While these iridoplasts reflect blue light, they absorb green light. The upper canopy of the forest absorbs the blue light and the rest of the green light reaches the floor where it is absorbed by the begonias.

In very low light, the iridoplasts in fact worked very well. Although many questions have been answered thanks to the latest research that was carried out, there still exist a few more mysteries about the begonias.

Further inquiry in the future may yield a ton of data that would go on to expand our knowledge base about these strange botanical species. 

The findings of this new paper got published in the journal Nature Plants.

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