Light transmission through flower petals

I just picked my morning coffee; and walking back the I noticed a tiny white flower shining like a beacon of light. I could not believe my eyes; it looked as if the flower was producing its own light. What was really happening was light was shining on the petals in a strange way. A small observation like his enough for me to actually take a closer look; and I did pluck the flower (although it seemed like the Resturant owner might not have been happy). One day, I will explain to him that it was all for science. 
I took the picture of the flower (please help me identify this – it looks like a common gardening flower) in transmitted light. Notice the strange shimmer. 


Next, it was time for foldscope. I was shocked to see that the cells looked almost bloated with a fluid (almost like water balloons). Second surprise comes from the cell junctions themselves – which are ragged and kind of connect with each other. Seems to me that are actually allowing some light to pass through as well (which might mean that air might exist in the plane of sheet of cells). That is very very strange. We are used to thinking about sheets of cells as confident sheets – but here is a flower petal that might actually be putting air gaps to enhance optical properties (remember – the whole job of a petal is to get the flower noticed) which this little guy did very very well. 
Take a look. 

Also, above you can see a stomata. Yes; flower petals also seem to have stomata. What do they do that’s different from leaves? I don’t know 🙂 
Under the microscope, I noticed a small region of damage on the petal itself. Which looked deep yellow/brown in color. It seems like some kind of fungus or another infection. I followed I through and found this yellow band of something (I can infectious) traveling right across the cell junctions. This could be the mechanism how plant disease propagate – just shoving themselves in between cell junctions.  

I took some beautiful movies of the cells as well (will post here shortly); but I could mr wait but share this. Walk around and keep your eyes open; this world is a very strange place. 
Keep exploring.. 


1) if you have some reference on reflective properties of petals and its importance for pollination – please leave a note. 
2) if you know of such a cell junction (curved with air gaps) or what that matter; if you know of any cell sheet with an air gap; please please leave a note. 
3) if you know what flower it is, I would be indeed very grateful. 

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Saad Bhamla says:

    Holy cow! That first picture is insanely beautiful.
    I jumped from my chair. Would be very cool to see a time-lapse of the cells as they wither ! They almost look like bubble-wrap.


  2. Manu Prakash says:

    @saad: it’s so funny – I thought of the same analogy as bubble wrap – and this did decide to take a time lapse. It’s collected at 1frane per minute and rendered at 5frames per second.

    I will make a new post for it; but since you might enjoy it – here is the time lapse. You will see something really beautiful – the innER cytoskeleton of the cells that hold these bubble wrap cells in place. Also notice how they pack.


  3. Saad Bhamla says:

    In the time-lapse, i also noticed some nice wrinkling patterns at the edges that i did not see before!
    very very cool.

  4. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. This is so amazing.. Can you also get the pollen I do not have a member of the Ranunculaceae, which is what I think they are and we can put it up in the database :). This is a white buttercup in all likelihood. There has been a recent paper on its reflective properties.

    You hit the nail on the head as usual. Apparently, there is a starch layer too.. Perhaps a simple iodine test (drop some iodine on it) will reveal that..

  5. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. Help me understand this air gap principle a little more 🙂 as it is at the heart of this reflective property. Thanks.

  6. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks: what an incredible find – thank you so much for this reference. Suddenly my head is racing in so many directions.

    I was already writing a second post with much more careful observations of the internal cell structure. Now I am even more excited about the cell structure/geometry link.

    The cells have extremely wrinkled junctions connecting neighboring cells. Also; they are actually inflated to from a curved membrane. I am also seeing a strange fiber like structure in my images – and was tally confused to what that is. I will try iodine and also do some cross sections as well.

    But first, I need to go back and steal some more flowers 🙂

    Check your inbox, I will send some pollen pictures shortly. I did not see any grains; only incredibly beautiful yellow sac like cells on the anther that could potentially be filled with pollen. But it was very surprising. maube you can resolve that mystery.


  7. Matt.Rossi says:

    @Manu: Gorgeous shot! It looks like the flowers are bejeweled right down to the very bottoms of their structures.

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