Epidermal cells functioning as lenses in leaves of tropical rain-forest shade plants

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A ray tracing model has been developed to investigate the possible focusing effects of the convexly curved epidermal cell walls which characterize a number of shade-adapted plants. The model indicates that such focusing occurs, resulting in higher photosynthetic photon flux densities at certain locations within the leaf. It is postulated that there will be a corresponding increase in the rate of photosynthesis. In addition, leaf reflectance measurements indicate that this is generally less for the shade plants compared with sun species and would be advantageous in increasing the efficiency of energy capture. Either effect is important for plants which must survive at extremely low light levels.

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