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Hidden Wonders- Microscopic Beauty in Plants

Science and the arts are often thought of as being on opposite ends of the spectrum. But sometimes the pursuit of scientific knowledge turns up images of extraordinary beauty.

Nature's beauty has no limits. Just when you thought the depths of the circle of life are incredible and the balance of our ecosystem weaves an impossible thread of delicate beauty, think again- think microscopic! Here is a closer look at a magnified view of a tiny slice of common plant stems or flowers captured by scientist and artist Rob Kesseler. Images reveal plant cellular patterns using a variety of microscope techniques, sometimes piecing together more than 500 shots to create a single image. These technicoloured and psychedelic images uncover an additional hidden wonder and beauty in the plants around us.


Allium Naples Garlic

Bubble looking cells of a Garlic Flower under a microscope.

The structure of garlic could be mistaken for exquisite coloured glass. When a tiny stem section is stained with toluidine blue, a dye that builds up in the acidic parts of tissue, nucleic acids show up in blue. The dark spot is a bundle of vascular tissue that carries nutrients and fluids up the stem. The full image is a composite of 55 shots.

Narrow-leaved helleborine

 

Purple dyed bead-like cells of a Helleborine stem.
Found in scattered locations across the UK, populations of this threatened woodland orchid have declined massively over the past 30 years. The stained stem is peppered with black blobs: as with the garlic image, they are clusters of vascular tissue.

Primrose

Star shaped cells of a Primrose Flower stem.

The stem of this flowering plant conceals a star-like shape in its centre, its outline formed by a black ring of seven tightly-packed vascular cells. This common primrose is distinguished from other species by its pale yellow flowers that grow on long, hairy stalks.

Goosegrass (cleavers)

Diamond shaped cross section of Goosegrass.
This stained cross-section of a goosegrass stem looks like an intricate glass ornament. The tiny downward-pointing hairs visible on the tips make the plant feel sticky if you brush against it, earning it the nickname "sticky willy".

Sphagnum moss

Purple worm-looking cross section of a moss leaf.

An ultra close-up view of this moss leaf shows what look like a bunch of worms clumped together. The "tiles" in the pattern are hyaline cells: dead cells capable of holding large amounts of water.

Poppy

Poppy stem cross section exposed to polarised light.

Looking at the stem slice of a common poppy under polarised light produces a psychedelic effect. The stain reveals blob-like vascular cells arranged close to the stem walls. The black-and-white pattern in the centre is the pith, which absorbed less of the dye

Images: Rob Kesseler

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