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Name: Lily
Status: student
Grade: 12+
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: China
Date: Summer 2013


Question:
Why do some plants have leaves with purple underside? Does this feature bring any evolutionary advantage?



Replies:
The purple color is related to anthocyanin pigments in the leaf, particularly of shade-plants; however, the actual advantages/benefits seem to remain unclear:

Sincerely, Anthony Brach Anthony R. Brach, Ph.D., Harvard University Herbaria, 22 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


Hi Lily,

Thanks for the questions. The purple underside of a plant may be due to white light shining through the top of the leaf. Some components of the white light may be absorbed so as to leave the purple color--and this is what you see. I am not sure of an evolutionary advantage other than the fact that the plan uses the light that is most abundant.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks Jeff



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