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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Peacock Fern (Selaginella willdenowii)

With it fronds glistening of iridescent metallic blue caused by the reflection of light often enhanced through the gentle breeze sweeping through the tropical rain forest and moisten from the wet environment of the forest floor, ignoring the uniqueness of this fern would be difficult as it stands out amongst the foliage of the forest floor.
This fern can be found climbing and twirling around other plants forming into many smaller branches at times. The fern is endemic to Indo China, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia.

From articles I read about this fern, the purpose for this unique exhibition of colors remains unclear. As a fern it produces no flowers, so the iridescent display by the fronds to functions as a mechanism to attract pollinators does not hold water. It has been speculated that this iridescent quality protects the fern from the ultraviolet rays of the sun which I believe many a botanist will disagree. Such is the work of nature that this iridescent leave fern are among the most striking of the world’s flora.

The current explanation for this iridescent quality is best described by (David. W. Lee 1977)
“The iridescence is apparently caused by the effect of thin film interference filters in the leaf epidermis. Lee pointed out that the convex epidermal cells in this species may focus light into a single, distal, large chloroplast, possibly adaptations for the improvement of photosynthetic efficiency at the forest floor level”.
Not being a botanist, I take that to mean the iridescent fronds help in improving the efficiency of the photosynthesis process.

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