MadSci Network: Botany

Re: How do plants with nongreen leaves photosynthesize?

Date: Tue Dec 21 17:52:50 2004
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1103668462.Bt

Plant leaves often contain nongreen pigments, such as anthocyanins and
carotenoids, in addition to green chlorophylls. There are many plants with
nongreen leaves in which anthocyanins are present in such large amounts that
they cover up the green due to chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is still there and
functioning however. Examples of plants with nongreen leaves are blue Colorado
spruce, red Japanese maple, purpleleaf plum, purple smoke tree and 'Sunburst'
honeylocust. Plants with nongreen leaves are highly valued by gardeners and
sometimes overused in landscapes.

The reverse occurs in green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. Yellow
carotenoids were in the leaf all spring and summer but did not become visible
until the chlorophyll degraded in the fall.  

There are a few hundred parasitic plant species that lack chlorophyll so their
stems are usually white or yellow. They either lack leaves or have rudimentary
leaves. Examples include dodder and Rafflesia.


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