Leaves of tropical plants such as Leptospermum recapture light with purple pigment.

Image: Ben Britten

Purple pigments on the underside of leaves in rainforest plants help maximize light absorption through reflecting light back up int the leaf.

“On the floor of a well-established forest, the light may be very dim indeed.” Some plants in Borneo’s tropical rain forests “maximise the meagre light that falls on them in a different way. They coat the underside of their leaves with a purple pigment. This catches the light after it has passed through the thickness of the leaf and redirects it back into the leaf tissues so that the chlorophyll has a second chance to utilise what is left of it.” (Attenborough 1995:47-48)

Last Updated October 13, 2016