Natural Velcro? (BioE80 Spr2015)

As a Maker, I was curious about the way natural structures are engineered in the microcosmos. I wanted to explore how the form and function of these substructures allowed them to work together to create the larger systems we see every day. I decided to focus on the structures in a flowering plant. I know that they need to attract creatures like bees and butterflies to spread pollen. I found a flower with unique petals. They looked small and fuzzy, instead of smooth and wide like the petals of other flowers. I took a closer look.

I prepared a Foldscope slide by placing one clear sticker on the slide, rubbing the sticky part against some of the petals until a few came off onto it, and then placing another clear sticker over the samples. With the naked eye, the petals just looked like small flecks. When I looked at them in the Foldscope, I saw an interesting structure. Each “fleck” was actually a complicated structure that had a central stalk and several protruding smaller fibers. It seemed to me that these petals were engineered to trap as much pollen as possible — each of the little fibers coming out of the central stalk probably traps a great amount of pollen. In fact, the structure reminded me of Velcro and how effective that is in sticking things together. In the future, could structures like this be used to create “natural Velcro,” or even a natural way of trapping air pollutants?IMG_7827


Contributor: Cheenar Banerjee

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