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Relationship between the velvet-like texture of flower petals and light reflection from epidermal cell surfaces


Texture such as velvet lustre contributes to the ornamental character of a flower, along with shape and colour. This study aims to clarify the relationship between the formation of the velvet lustre texture and the optical characteristics of light reflection from irradiated surfaces of velvety and non-velvety petals from 30 cultivars or varieties of ornamental plants representing 19 species from various families. The angle of incident light from the petal surface was set at 90°, 60° or 30°, then light reflection from the petal surfaces was observed using a digital microscope. The observed reflected light was composed of “exterior” reflected light (ERL), which is observed as sparkling white spots on the surface of the epidermal cells, and “interior” reflected light (IRL), which is reflected from inside the petal and determines the base colour of the petals. Velvety petals had two common characteristics: conical-papillate or domed epidermal cells and a dark colour. As the angle between the petal and the incident light decreased, the ERL spots took on a belt-like shape, and total ERL intensity became stronger. We concluded that the velvety texture is derived from characteristic ERL rays coupled with dark IRL. The long sloping surface of the epidermal cells contributes to the higher ERL intensity as petals are observed from more horizontal angles, causing characteristic reverse shading effects on velvety petals.

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We are grateful to Dr. Beth Eva Hazen for improving the English of this manuscript. This study was funded by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (DL13CA01), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31000318) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (20090450945, 201104405).

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Correspondence to Yuhua Li.

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Zhang, Y., Sun, T., Xie, L. et al. Relationship between the velvet-like texture of flower petals and light reflection from epidermal cell surfaces. J Plant Res 128, 623–632 (2015).

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  • Cell shape
  • Epidermal cell
  • Exterior reflected light (ERL)
  • Interior reflected light (IRL)
  • Pigment concentration
  • Velvet lustre texture