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Nature's Palette: The Science of Plant Color

Nature's Palette: The Science of Plant Color



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Published by UChicagoPress

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Publish date: Oct 1, 2007
Added to Scribd: Sep 15, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780226471051
List Price: $18.00 Buy Now


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niecierpek reviewed this
Rated 4/5
A very interesting book on plant pigments. Lee covers what is known about colours of leaves and flowers in minute detail. He answers the question of how pigments are produced quite extensively, but only partially what the function of plant colour is. It is actually surprising how much, yet how relatively little, is known about functions of: leaf variegation or colour red in leaves, various movements and shape changes in chloroplasts, the function of fall colour change in deciduous trees, or metallic colour blue in plants.As Lee explains it, “We assume, given the sophistication and spread of scientific research today, that such simple phenomena as plant color are well understood. There are several reasons explaining our relative ignorance about color, however, red leaves in particular. First, plants are not human diseases and don’t benefit from the largesse of National Institutes of Health. The few plants that are well-studied tend to be those that are economically the most important, such as maize and soybeans. Second, because anthocyanins are often responsible for the color of fruits and flowers, most research has focused on those… (so) the anthocyanins became early subjects of research in molecular genetics, rather than physiology…” p. 282 of the first hardcover edition.Indeed, the book covers anthocyanins- water-soluble pigments that produce blue, violet, and red colors in plants- most extensively and most in-depth, presumably because most is known about them.There are a few interesting and surprising facts in this book, at least for me. One of them is that colours in plants are produced through many different ways and through different chemicals, and the composition of some of those is still unknown. Neither did I realize how inefficient plants are in converting the solar energy into sugars- the optimal conversion rate being 1%. People don't seem to be extremely efficient, either, by the way. Their conversion rate of sugars into energy is at a surprisingly low 40%.Lee also ventures a bit into genetics of colour inheritance and how greenery and plant colours affect our well being, and how pigments have been utilized by humans throughout the ages. I would have probably wanted to have more questions answered, but it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed, especially while reading it in the garden and looking around at the whole array of colours around me.
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