sLowlife: Plants in Motion

Chlorophyll

Roger Hangarter and Dennis DeHart. Chlorophyll is one of nature’s magical potions. It is present in all green plants and is responsible for light absorption, which provides energy for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis generates oxygen—a source of life for our planet. This flask contains chlorophyll extracted from spinach leaves. When a beam of light passes through the extract, the chlorophyll absorbs the energy, which is the first step in photosynthesis. Because the chlorophyll in this flask has been isolated from the plant, energy cannot be converted and stored. Instead the energy is released as heat and red fluorescence.

Microprocessing

Roger Hangarter and Dennis DeHart. Plants may appear to be remarkably still and calm compared with animals. But inwardly plants are far from still. Within each rigid cell wall, plant cells are constantly moving their cellular contents about. Time-lapse microscopy reveals a fascinating choreography of movements of cellular components. With the aid of technology these ever-present cellular movements reveal their important work. Some cellular movements can change in an instant in response to environmental stimuli, demonstrating that the apparent outward stillness of plants is a facade for their true dynamic nature. These still images from the Microprocessing series show chloroplasts in leaf cells, captured as they were being drawn to the upper surface of the cells in response to the leaf’s exposure to low-intensity light.