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Black flowers

john markwell markwell at unlinfo.unl.edu
Fri Apr 28 09:17:47 EST 1995

ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk (Tony Travis) writes:

>Jeffrey Kirby (ez043438 at bullwinkle.ucdavis.edu) wrote:

>: In reality there really is no such thing as a black flower, short of a 
>: painted one. Not to my knowledge. There are flowers that are very close, 
>: [...]

>An interesting thought occured to me about black plants:

>Objects appear black when all the light incident upon them is absorbed
>so an entirely black plant should, in principle, be the most efficient
>for photosynthesis and would _prevent_ light reaching plants in lower
>strata of a canopy that are competing with it!!

>So, why don't plants have black leaves?

>Well, there are lots of reasons ;-)

>One is that the radiation load would make the leaves too hot.  Another
>is that forests and other vegatation canopies would be entirely dark,
>so dispersal by pollenating insects and berry eating animals would be
>impossible in complete darkness.

>Yet another is that older leaves would be completely shaded by opaque
>young leaves and would, therefore, become metabolic sinks ...

>One undergraduate lecture I remember well is the 'ideal' plant which
>should have a single, spherical, fruit and one hexagonal leaf (so there
>are no gaps between plants) to intercept the maximum available light!!

>Perhaps I could now add that the leaf should also be black so that all
>the available light is absorbed ;-)

>Any other thoughts about 'ideal' plants??

>	Tony.
>Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  JANET: <ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri>
>Rowett Research Institute,            |  other: <ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk>
>Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  phone: +44 (0)224 712751
>Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |    fax: +44 (0)224 716687

I hate to contradict, but it may be possible to have black plants.  
There is a report by C.H. Dodson and the late A.H. Gentry [1991] 
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 78:273.  They report finding 
plants with black leaves in forests in Equador.  Very exciting.  
Unfortunately, this area has been deforested and the plants are 
thought to be now extinct.  Perhaps a great lost opportunity . ..

John Markwell			Phone: 402-472-2924
Dept. Biochemistry		FAX:   402-472-7842
University of Nebraska		Internet: markwell at unl.edu
Lincoln, NE  68583-0718

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