Researchers solve mystery of blue sheen on some begonias’ leaves

Researchers solve mystery of blue sheen on some begonias’ leaves

Solving the mystery of unusually blue sheen on the leaves of some begonias, a team of researchers from the universities of Bristol and Essex have discovered that their chloroplasts have gradually evolved a light-trapping structure of nanoscale to help them survive in the darkness of thick rain forests of Southeast Asia.

Plants make energy with the help of chloroplasts, which are full of green-colored chlorophyll. But some plants in the dim rain forests have blue sheen on the leaves.

The researchers found that Begonia pavonina, which is also known as peacock begonia and dwells in dim rain forests, has adapted to the very low levels of sunlight by developing leaves that are shimmering azure.

Prof. Matt Jacobs, of the School of Biological Sciences, said, "Individual chloroplasts in these leaves reflected blue light brightly, almost like a mirror . 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."

As Begonia species have attractive leaves and flowers with the ability to survive in low light, plants of this species have become very popular as decorative indoor plants.

The research paper describing how shimmering blue plants exist was detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Nature Plants.


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