Introducing The Brightest Plant In The World: The Marble Berry

We don’t often think about plants as being shiny and bright, but there are a few examples from around the world that fit that description.

Included in this is the marble berry (Pollia condensata), one of the more unusual plants you will ever see and one considered to be the brightest plant in the world.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The berries on the plant are iridescent and shiny. It looks more like a Christmas ornament than a plant that is grown in the forests of central Africa.

If you wanted to find this plant for yourself, you would have to travel to Central Africa where you will locate the perennial plant growing in the forest. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, up to 40 electric-colored blueberries are sprouted in clusters on the plants, which can be up to 3 feet tall.

At times, we may see iridescence in nature but it is very unusual to see it in vegetation. Quite honestly, most plants would rather hide and not make themselves too obvious to anyone that would eat them.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That may make you wonder why the marble berry is such a bright-colored plant. There is actually a study published on the subject, saying that the appearance had a very specific reason.

The marble berry is different from any other plant because it doesn’t use pigments for the color. The colors in many plants will fade because it breaks down but the color for the marble berry is kept for decades because of the pixelated structural colorization.

Researchers were able to look at a sample that was collected in 1974 from Ghana, and they found that it had not lost any of its brightness over the years.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

There are a number of cellular layers below the surface that are made of fibers. It creates a mirror-type reflective coating because only a narrow wavelength is reflected.

Think of it this way, light hits the outside of the berry and the majority of the light is reflected. As the light that is absorbed goes down through the layers of fibers, each layer will reflect a certain amount that is bright. That is what produces the strong colors, something that is known as Bragg reflection.

Perhaps the marble berry isn’t afraid to show itself being so bright because they want to be eaten. The blue that you see is actually part of a husk that houses the berries and when birds eat them, they spread the seeds far and wide.

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