Helicopter Seed under the Microscope

I conducted this project as a part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

During our foldscope lab, we constructed foldscopes from scratch to create a tool with which we could view the microscopic world hidden from the naked eye. After many setbacks while constructing my FoldScope, I persevered and began searching for something I could look at. As a kid I was always fond of seeing the helicopter seeds slowly spiral towards the ground and wondered why they were shaped as such and what purposes the slowed descent provided to the organism as a whole. I am no longer a kid, meaning that I am older therefore wiser. So I found a helicopter seed outside and chose it for further examination under the microscope.

The photo depicts the “blade” of the helicopter seed, the fibrous lining that makes the unique descent of the seed possible. I initially thought that this blade acted as a leaf capable of photosynthesis, further reinforced by seeing this vein on the blade. But after some research, I learned that this helicopter seed is technically a “samara fruit”, known for the distinct wing and characteristic flight of the seeds as they are released, and that the vein is most likely there as a result of the creation of this appendage. The plants create these seeds that “fly” because it helps with dispersal and prevents new plants from competing with one another for resources by spreading them out.

I also wondered what the dots were at the center of my image, which seem to be in higher resolution than the other parts of the image. I was not able to determine what they are or what they do, but they caught my eye.

Building the foldscope brought back memories of first seeing the microscopic world for the first time when I was younger. Even now at my ripe old age of 21, the child-like joy of seeing the tiniest parts of the natural world shown in full detail is still there. The FoldScope making science more accessible to kids worldwide can hopefully kindle that same excitement I felt for many more to come.

Source(s): https://www.thespruce.com/samara-fruit-3269469

Also would like to shoutout my lab TA (name withheld for anonymity) who stuck around for overtime while I was unable to get a clear image through my FoldScope. Would not have been possible without your help

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