Scientists at the University of Essex and Bristol have recently published a study revealing the mystery behind the blue leaves of peacock begonia plants. Their special process of photosynthesis is responsible for the unique appearance of the plant. Thanks to its ability, the plant can survive in dim light, as scientists proved.
Peacock begonia is the common name of scientific Begonia pavonina. The plant can be found in tropical rain forests in the Southern parts of Asia. The vegetation and the trees’ foliage are so thick and dense that the small plants growing on the ground don’t receive enough sunlight. This is why many of them had to develop adaptation mechanisms.
The researchers in charge of the study noted that there are special chloroplasts in the plant’s leaves. They examined them under the microscope and observed that the leaves work similarly to mirrors and that they reflect blue light.
The blue leaves of peacock begonia plants stand as their adaptation mechanism to the dim light conditions in the jungle. The new study from the British researchers accounts for the special way in which these plants interact with light and the effects it has on their leaves.
Most plants have green leaves because of the substance called chlorophyll. This substance is green and helps the plant with its photosynthesis process, which requires light. However, for peacock begonia plants, iridoplasts work the same way that chlorophyll functions for other green plants. They gather light and carbon dioxide and turn them into energy and food for the begonia plants.
The scientists explain that the appearance of the plant is also concerned with how the iridoplasts are placed inside the blue leaves. They are organized in minuscule layered structures that amazed the specialists when they discovered them under the microscope.
The authors of the new study also noted another curious fact about peacock begonia plants. Their structured blue leaves catch only green and red sun rays. These are the only type of sun rays which make it to the bottom of the thick rain forest.
Previous studies accounted for other plants’ ability to make do with the little sunlight they got. They had purple substances which helped them with their photosynthesis process. These were ancient plants.
The new study unveiling the mystery of the peacock begonia plants was published in the journal Nature Plants.
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