Researchers have finally discovered why the begonia peacock plant (Begonia pavonina) illuminates blue. In fact, it uses quantum mechanics to slow light and make more effective photosynthesis in the dark.
Well, the blue glow of begonia is part of the evolutionary trick that allows the plant to use more chemical energy through photosynthesis of the red-green light that penetrates to tinted forest floor, where it grows.
“It’s actually brilliant. Plants have to cope with all the obstacles and can not escape. Here we see evidence of a plant that actually evolved to physically manipulate the tiny amount of light it receives.”
“This is a pretty amazing and surprising discovery”. Declares the team leader, Heather Whitney, from the University of Bristol in the UK.
Whitney and his team came to this discovery by exploring hybrid of this plant in the laboratory. This kind of wild plant is very delicate to remove from its home in the rain forest.
This plant has aroused great interest because its leaves are blue instead of green. It indicates that the chloroplast structure in the leaves of the plant where photosynthesis takes place are also blue. But so far, no one has managed to find out why this is so.
Using electron microscope, the researchers were able to examine the cellular structures inside the leaves of begonia. More specifically, the chloroplast of the plant.
In the inside of these “capsules with chloroplast” the team noticed that thylakoids were arranged in a more structured way than other plants. These small structures seem to be arranged in a pattern as a planned city, unlike other plants which only scattered without any order.
The most interesting aspect of the layout of the structure is that it is arranged in such a way that you can slow down the light that enters the cells of the plant, creating an effect called “slow light“.
This process creates a double photosynthetic energy. The plant has already absorbed red and green light, so you can slow down the journey of the light to get more chemical energy from it.
This increases photosynthesis by 10 percent. This means that with the same amount of light, these plants are able to get 10 percent more chemical energy.
This survey has expanded view of the fact that this kind of phenomenon is perhaps more widespread than we know.