Metallic Bright Shine Of This Fruit
Does Not Fade Even After A Century!

11 September, 2012

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Follow us: - This African remarkable fruit has its own extraordinary colour but does not use pigment to create it.

Glittering blue colour remains intense even years after plant's death.

The ‘brightest’ thing in nature, the Pollia condensata fruit, does not get its blue colour from pigment but instead uses structural colour – a method of reflecting light of particular wavelengths- new research reveals.

Pollia condensata, with its brightly coloured fruit, is found across Africa. Credit: P. Moult

Most colours around us are the result of pigments. However, a few examples in nature – including the peacock, the scarab beetle and now the Pollia condensata fruit – use structural colour as well.

Fruits are made of cells, each of which is surrounded by a cell wall containing cellulose. However, the researchers found that in the Pollia condensata fruit the cellulose is laid down in layers, forming a chiral (asymmetrical) structure that is able to interact with light and provide selective reflection of only a specific colour.

As a result of this unique structure, it reflects predominately blue light.

The scientists also discovered that each individual cell generates colour independently, producing a pixelated or pointillist effect (like those in the paintings of Seurat). This colour is produced by the reflection of light of particular wavelengths from layers of cellulose in the cell wall.

'Pollia condensata' is born in Angola Mozambique and Ethiopia - its dried shell when viewed under a microscope. Credit: University of Cambridge

The thickness of the layers determines which wavelength of light is reflected. As a result, some cells have thinner layers and reflect blue; others have thicker layers and reflect green or red.

'Pollia condensata' - unique blue fruit’s colour does not fade even after a century. Credits: University of Cambridge

Although the Pollia fruit does not provide any nutritional value, birds are attracted to its bright colouring – possibly as a means of decorating their nests or impressing their mates.

“This obscure little plant has hit on a fantastic way of making an irresistible shiny, sparkly, multi-coloured, iridescent signal to every bird in the vicinity, without wasting any of its precious photosynthetic reserves on bird food," says Beverley Glover at the University of Cambridge.

The colour of the Pollia condensata fruit does not fade and samples of the fruit found in collections dated back to the 19th century show that they were as colourful and shiny as ones grown today.

“The optics are impressive,” says Silvia Vignolini, a physicist at the University of Cambridge and one of the authors of the study.
“There are no previous examples of this in nature.”

The study was published in the journal PNAS.


See also:
Amazing Phenomenon Of Singing Plants

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