Physical and ultrastructural basis of blue leaf iridescence in four Malaysian understory plants

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Iridescent blue leaf coloration in four Malaysian rain forest understory plants, Diplazium tomentosum Bl. (Athyriaceae), Lindsaea lucida Bl. (Lindsaeaceae), Begonia pavonina Ridl. (Begoniaceae), and Phyllagathis rotundifolia Bl. (Melastomataceae) is caused by a physical effect, constructive interference of reflected blue light. The ultrastructural basis for this in D. tomentosum and L. lucida is multiple layers of cellulose microfibrils in the uppermost cell walls of the adaxial epidermis. The helicoidal arrangement of these fibrils is analogous to that which produces a similar color in arthropods. In B. pavonina and P. rotundifolia the blue-green coloration is caused by parallel lamellae in specialized plastids adjacent to the abaxial wall of the adaxial epidermis. The selective advantage of this color production, if any, is unknown.

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