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The most shiny living thing ever is a berry with no nutritional value in Africa.


Stashed in: Facts, Light, Colors!, Plants!, Factoids

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Some animals and plants have evolved ways of displaying colors without actually having those colors — what's known as structural color.

The most strongly blue plant in existence isn't blue at all — it's just very strangely reflective:

Pollia condensata is a berry with no nutritional value that has managed to thrive in Africa because it's just so damned shiny that birds love the thing, and use it for decoration.

A new paper in PNAS delved into how these berries are "more intense than that of any previously described biological material."

More than just an astonishing shade of blue, the berries are pointillist, with an almost glittery appearance. The paper calls it the most reflective biological material ever described, reflecting up to 30% of the light that hits it.

The berry achieves this by stacking the cell walls of its skin with cellulose strands stacked as layers of helixes. The vast majority of these are spaced so that only blue light is reflected, but there's enough variance that other colors are added to the mix as well, giving a multi hued look.

Because the patterning differs from cell to cell, some reflect to the left, and some reflect to the right, which has never before been observed in a single biological tissue.

It's an example of a convergent evolution, where plants and animals have evolved structural rather than optical coloration.

These berries would be awesome for distracting people attracted to shiny things.

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