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Commun Integr Biol. 2009 May;2(3):230-2.

Contributions of iridescence to floral patterning.

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Department of Plant Sciences; University of Cambridge; Cambridge, UK.


The Hibiscus trionum flower is distinctly patterned, with white petals each with a patch of red pigment at the base, producing a 'bulls-eye' pattern on the whole flower. The red pigmented patches are also iridescent, due to the presence of a series of overlying cuticular striations that act as a diffraction grating. We have previously reported that scanning electron microscopy revealed a sharply defined difference between the surface structure overlying the pigmented patch and that over the rest of the petal, with the diffraction grating only present over the pigmented region. Here we show that differences in petal surface structure overlie differences in pigment color in three other species, in a range of different patterns. Floral patterns have previously been shown to be advantageous in pollinator attraction, and we discuss whether emphasis of pigment patterns by structural color may increase floral recognition by pollinators.


diffraction grating; floral characteristics; iridescence; pollination; structural color; ultraviolet


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