Physical and ultrastructural basis of blue leaf iridescence in two neotropical ferns.

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Iridescent blue leaf coloration in two neotropical ferns, Danaea nodosa (L.) Sm. (Marattiaceae) and Trichomanes elegans L. C. Rich. (Hymenophyllaceae), is caused by thin film constructive interference. The ultrastructural basis for the film in D. nodosa is multiple layers of cellulose microfibrils in the adaxial cell walls of the adaxial epidermis. The apparent helicoidal arrangement of the fibrils is analogous to similar color production in arthropods. In T. elegans the blue-green coloration is caused by the remarkably uniform thickness and arrangement of grana in specialized chloroplasts adjacent to the adaxial wall of the adaxial epidermis. The selective advantage of this color production, if any, is unknown but apparently different from that previously studied in Selaginella.

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