Most leaves look green, but some – many ! – red, brown, purple, yellow, and orange! Whats up with that ! – did you all think we were heading to Broadway with “The Color Purple ” as a heading ? ( I did )
The green comes from the vast amount of chlorophyll (used in photosynthesis) inside the cells. From sunlight, it absorbs
many wavelengths (think rainbow) except one – It reflects the green wavelength – and Voila – we see leaves green!
Leaf color in plants is mostly about pigments and how they react to light. Carotene (orange and yellow crystals) help the
cell with its daily processes. There are some that work as sun block to protect the inside of the cells from the intense sun –
anthocyanins – a reddish to blueish purple. The combinations of which substances present in the leaves and the quantities
they are present in give us the wide range of colors and tones. Our Garden Design team at Plant Specialists love this !
Red and purple leaf coloration tends to be an adaptation to full sun. It is the plants way of staying in the sunny
environment while protecting the delicate cells and chlorophyll inside from the harmful UV radiation. Haven’t you noticed a
red leaf plant that is put into shade eventually all its leaves are green and it has lost the bright red and purples. That is
because in a lower light situation the leaves don’t need protection and thus the pigments are not produced.
The lack of color in a leaf (variegation) simply means those cells have no chlorophyll (or none we can distinguish) and we
see it white or pale yellow against the green. Most of us have seen this with our Interior Plants.
I will bet you’ll never look at a leaf the same way again !
This Purple-rific Blog was written by Peter Morris our resident Horticulturalist