ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Rainbow Flora

Updated on April 24, 2020
Deepa damodaran profile image

Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.

Why Leaves Vie Flowers?

Purple-leaved Fennel, Purple Passion Plant, Snake Plant, Calathea, Aluminium Plant, African mask plant and of course crotons! All of them defy the natural green to splash colors of all hues on their leaves. Plants also generally parade shoots that are either purple or red. The plants bear multi-colored flowers just in the manner humans wear attractively colored attires- to set a romantic and catchy environment for reproduction. However, the leaf colors are not in any way related to anything like that. Nature had some very different purpose in mind, it seems.

The Invisibility Cloak and Camouflage

The shoots of many plants are either red or purple. The color works as an invisible cloak that protects these delicate plant parts from sun damage. Anthocyanin is the pigment that gives leaves red or purple color. It is the sunscreen of these new-born beauties that we call shoots. Scientists believe that the chlorophyll literally hides behind this mask to protect itself from sharp sunlight. Being stated that, there is still much ambiguity surrounding the reason why shoots or leaves of plants have colors other than green. One hypothesis also says that the leaves that stand to bask in strong sunlight are those that display non-green colors. Another one says that anthocyanins are strong antioxidants and they help the plants to remain winter-ready. What about the tropical rain forest plants that have purple undersides? Given this anomaly, are we sure, sunlight is a factor?

Scientists say that the red or purple color hides the shoots and leaves from the prying eyes of the predators which include pests as well as bigger herbivores. Studies have shown that red leaves get less devoured by herbivores when compared to green ones. Phenolic, which is a resin kind of material present in high concentrations, in red or purple leaves, could be another reason why herbivorous insects and animals do not want to eat them. It is also scientifically observed that purple undersides of certain tropical leaves have the same function which protects them from fungal attacks, which is a big threat in the humid microclimate of a tropical forest. The herbivorous insects are found to be generally more attracted to the color green, than red or purple. Hence, the colors other than green reduce insect attack.

The differently colored leaves still can carry out photosynthesis as efficiently as their green counterparts because they have a sufficient quantity of chlorophyll in them though masked by the color pigments.

Chameleons of the Plant World

Come Fall, trees such as Maples, Aspens and Sourwood literally start a riot of colors. It is basically in preparation for the ensuing period of dormancy made necessary by a hostile climate. What happens at the molecular level is that the anthocyanine pigment acts as a shade under which the chlorophyll is broken down and nitrogen from it is reabsorbed by the plant for surviving the hibernation time. There are also other factors that impact the fall colors of tree leaves such as temperature, humidity and sunlight. Very low temperatures close to the freezing point in Autumn cause bright red color in Maple leaves. A cloudy sky on the other hand will enhance the saturation of fall foliage coloration.

The Rainbow Effect

Different pigment combinations impart different shades to leaves. Good saturation of both anthocyanin and carotenoid results in brown color. This is the case when the leaf is senile or fallen. If carotenoids and anthocyanins are the two prominent pigments, the color of the leaf will be orange. Above all, based on the pH value of the anthocyanin pigment itself, it exhibits colors ranging from red to blue. Bilirubin, the pigment that gives the yellow color to the skin, eyes, and urine of those who suffer from jaundice, is also present in some plants and gives a yellow hue to plant parts. For example, the seeds of the white Bird of Paradise plant have an orange-colored fuzz on them, which is caused by Bilirubin.

Ageing Gracefully

When the leaves age, they turn yellow or red. When a leaf reaches the end days of its life, the chlorophyll in it breaks down allowing the plant to absorb back the nitrogen in it. Obviously, nature does not want the leaf to leave the body of the plant with the saved-up chlorophyll wasted in it. It is almost like the leaf giving its vital force back to the plant and crossing the rainbow bridge in an ultimate act of self-sacrifice.

Indoor Companions, Nutrition Treasure Troves

The colored plants are the favorites of any indoor gardener. Science says that the variegated patterns on leaves, when they are just white and green, are caused by plant mutation. These plants are the albinos of the plant kingdom. And many of them are known air purifiers and make them an indoor gardener’s coveted possessions.

All these amazing facts about leaf color remind us that there is nothing in nature that has no purpose. Thus studying nature closely can give you an ability to understand the purpose of your own existence and impart you with a sense of meaning.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Deepa damodaran profile imageAUTHOR

      Deepa 

      5 weeks ago from India

      Thank you bhattuc.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      5 weeks ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Nice hub. Well presented. Informative.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)