Looking at plants from a different perspective- six microscopic images of indigenous plants

Written by Catherine Clulow

Hello again, if you’ve clicked to take a closer look at this blog it’s either because we’ve caught your interest in the unseen or like us, you simply have a love of indigenous plants. With South Africa’s vast biodiversity and our readers being from different areas, we thought it’d be fun if this week we shared with you a few images that not many may have ever seen. We will be taking you down the lens of a microscope and getting up close and personal with some plants.

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are very proud to share that in the past two years we have donated two state- of-the-art Zeiss stereo video microscopes to the SANBI Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens for research support purposes: one with funds generously donated by the Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch, given to the Compton Herbarium, and the other given to the Horticulture team.  These are invaluable asset additions to the teams of the gardens and visiting scientists, and it’s great that we could assist them with these donations and in doing so assist further research of South Africa’s amazing biodiversity.

But back to the plants, without further ado, here you have them:

  • Agathosma leaves: Tiny oil glands are seen dotting the leaves, these contain the volatile oils responsible for the fragrance often associated with various species of the genus. Agathosma is a genus of about 140 species of flowering plants, native to the southern parts of Africa and commonly known as Buchu.
Agathosma_ leaves with oil glands dotting the leaves, contain the volatile oils responsible for the fragrance often associated with various species of the genus
Stereo microscope image (x 10) © Anthony Magee
  • Hypoestes aristata: You may recognise the ribbon bush, one of the indigenous shade-loving plants we shared about in a previous blog. In the image below we see the glandular trichomes (‘hairs’) on floral bracts for this plant. These specialised ‘hairs’ cover the surfaces of many vascular plants.
Hypoestes aristata_ glandular trichomes on floral bracts 2
Stereo microscope image (x 25) © Anthony Magee
  • Felicia is a genus of 83 species of annuals, perennials and shrubs. Commonly known to belong to the daisy family. Below you can see the Felicia disc florets. Disc florets are small tubular flowers at the centre of the flower head of certain composite plants.
Felicia_disc florets
Stereo microscope image (x 10) © Anthony Magee
  • Enarganthe octonaria: Here we see the tricolpate pollen grains of this northern Cape endemic. The number of pollen grain furrows and pores helps classify the flowering plants.
Enarganthe octonaria tricolpate pollen grains
Pollen grains under the Zeiss compound microscope © R Powell
  • Phymaspermum leptophyllum: Transverse section through the fruit, showing myogenic trichomes (‘hairs’) which burst when wet to help stick the fruit to the soil surface.
Phymaspermum leptophyllum_transverse section throuugh the fruit showing myxogenic trichomes which burst when wet to help stick the fruit to the soil
Transverse section under the Zeiss compound microscope © Anthony Magee
  • Ursinia kamiesbergensis: This is another northern Cape endemic and here we see a close up view of its’ anthers with prominent heart shaped apices.
    Ursinia kamiesbergensis_ anthers with prominent heart shaped apices
    Anthers under the Zeiss compound microscope © Anthony Magee

    We hope to share other microscope images with you in future. We hope that you enjoyed and learnt something from this blog, and if so please leave a comment and share with us. Perhaps there’s a certain plant feature you’d be interested in seeing through a microscope, let us know and we can look into it.

    Appreciation of the beauty and complexity of our country’s amazing biodiversity never ceases to amaze. Please share your interest and passion for nature and join BotSoc in promoting awareness about biodiversity education and conservation. Find out more about the Botanical Society here.

Until next time…

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botsocblog

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

3 thoughts on “Looking at plants from a different perspective- six microscopic images of indigenous plants”

    1. Thank you for your feedback Ellie, glad to hear that you enjoyed it! Do share if you’d like us do perhaps to a repeat on this theme and if there is anything in particular you think would be great to see….

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