Structural colours in the frond of Microsorum thailandicum

Lisa Maria Steiner, Yu Ogawa, Villads Egede Johansen, Clive R. Lundquist, Heather Whitney, Silvia Vignolini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Blue and near-ultraviolet structural colours have often been reported in understorey plants living in deep shade. While this intense blue coloration is very catchy to the eye of a human observer, there are cases in which structural colours can be hidden either by the scattered light interacting with pigments or because they are found in unexpected positions in the plants. Here, we show that the fronds of Microsorum thailandicum produce structural coloration on both the adaxial and abaxial epidermal surface. While cellulose helicoidal structures are responsible for this coloration in both epidermal layers, the reflected colours are consistently different: an intense blue reflection is found in the adaxial epidermis while red-shifted and less intense colours are observed in the abaxial epidermis, possibly suggesting photo-adaptation of the plant to the light environment. By comparing the optical properties of the fern with its anatomy we computed the theoretical reflection accounting for the presence of disorder in the cellulose helicoidal architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180055
Number of pages11
JournalInterface Focus
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2019


  • Cellulose helicoidal architecture
  • Circular polarization
  • Iridescence
  • Microsorum thailandicum
  • Plant cell wall
  • Structural colour

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