Of Nature’s colors that can be seen,
The most important one is ‘green’.
This is an opportunity to explain that there is a connection between sun’s energy, and all of the life on Earth. The light from the sun carries energy – we know that because we can feel its warmth. Some of that energy is intercepted by the leaves of plants, retained, and then used by the plant to power its own growth. The process is called photosynthesis. The cells in the leaves of plants contain pigments that absorb the energy, and then use it to assemble molecules from water and carbon dioxide. They release oxygen – good for us. The process of energy capture and building is interconnected with a rich and diverse array of pathways that assemble all that is required by plants. Then others, mostly animals including ourselves, eat the plants, break down the plant materials, and turn the results into our own bodies.
Photosynthesis is the molecular machinery upon which much of life on Earth depends. That is why we say that ‘green’ is the most important of all colors in Nature.
It is the leaves’ greenery
That runs the plant machinery
Working hard as daytime passes,
Combining sunshine, water and gases.
This is a young leaf of a ‘flame tree‘. It reminds us in which part of plants the green photosynthetic pigments occur. It is in the leaves that the ‘machinery’ (the chemical / metabolic processes) exploit the radiant energy (only available during the ‘daytime’), to combine carbon dioxide gas and water molecules to make fresh plant tissue.
Assembling the plants we all need.
Without them, on what would we feed?
This is a tree fern. Ferns are a type of plant that branched off the plant line of evolution before flowers emerged. One message here is that not all trees are closely related. The distinctive feature of trees (using a tough persistent stalk to hold the leaves high in the air) has appeared in many parts of the ‘tree’ of life – in the ferns, among flowering plants, even among grasses.
The green pigment that is for photosynthesis is ‘chlorophyll’. There are various forms of chlorophyll and some other photosynthetic pigments with slightly different colors. Looking through the pages of this book, you will find other things that are green. Some green animals get their color not from green pigments, but from combining yellow pigments and blue structural colors – a topic covered under iridescence.
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