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The Fake Plastic Jade Vine

by Buddhini Samarasinghe

Jake vine at Kew

I am a regular visitor to Kew Gardens in London and I was shocked one day when I was in the Princess of Wales Conservatory to see a fluorescent green flower-like thing dangling from the roof.

The colour was a bluish-green with purple bits, and I initially thought some pesky kids had hung it up there as a prank. It was only when I got closer to it that I realised it wasn't plastic or fake, it was actually a real flower attached to a real plant called the Jade Vine.

Cameras cannot do this flower justice, I don't think the sensors can capture the correct shade of the flower - every photo I tried to take was a poor imitation of the real thing. It defies the senses because I have never ever seen this shade of greenish blue in nature, there is no reference point.

I later learned that the plant (Strongylodon macrobotrys) evolved this beautiful flower colour which almost seems to glow in dim light in order to attract bat pollinators. In a Kew glasshouse there are no bats so the flowers are painstakingly hand-pollinated by humans using paintbrushes!

Buddhini Samarasinghe is a science communicator living in London with a penchant for unusual plants and flowers. Buddhini may love plants, but she hates jargon, and uses her website to attempt to break down the "jargon wall" that serves as a barrier to understanding science.


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