In the Surprising Science blog, The Smithsonian brings to attention the Pollia condensata, a perennial herb found in the forested regions of Africa that sports "small metallic fruits" which have "long been used for decorative purposes because of an unusual property: They stay a vibrant blue color for years or even decades after they?ve been picked."
Intrigued, a team of researchers from Kew, the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum decided to look into how this plant produces such a dazzling and persistent color. When they attempted to extract a pigment to study, though, they were surprised to discover the fruit had none.
When they examined P. condensata on a cellular level, they realized that the fruit produces its characteristic color through structural coloration, a radically different phenomenon that is well-documented in the animal kingdom but virtually unknown in plants. They determined that the fruit's tissue is more intensely colored than any previously studied biological tissue -- reflecting 30 percent of light, as compared to a silver mirror, making it more intense than even the renowned color of a Morpho butterfly?s wings. Their findings were revealed in a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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