Fruit that Produces the World’s Most Intense Natural Color

The tiny, rock-hard fruits of Pollia condensata, a wild plant that grows in the forests of Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and other African countries, can’t be eaten raw, cooked or turned into a beverage. In Western Uganda and elsewhere, though, the plant’s small metallic fruits have long been used for decorative purposes because of an unusual property: They stay a vibrant blue color for years or even decades after they’ve been picked. A specimen at the Kew Botanical Gardens in London that was gathered in Ghana in 1974 still retains its iridescent hue.

Pollia condensata, native to Africa, uses nanoscale-sized structures to produce the most intense color ever studied in biological tissue.

Intrigued, a team of researchers from Kew, the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum decided to look into how this plant produces such a dazzling and persistent color. When they attempted to extract a pigment to study, though, they were surprised to discover the fruit had none.

When they examined P. condensata on a cellular level, they realized that the fruit produces its characteristic color through structural coloration, a radically different phenomenon that is well-documented in the animal kingdom but virtually unknown in plants. They determined that the fruit’s tissue is more intensely colored than any previously studied biological tissue—reflecting 30 percent of light, as compared to a silver mirror, making it more intense than even the renowned color of a Morpho butterfly’s wings. Their findings were revealed in a new study published 9 September 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The vast majority of colors in the biological world are produced by pigments—compounds produced by a living organism that selectively absorb certain wavelengths of light, so that they appear to be the color of whichever wavelengths they reflect. For example, most plants are green because of the pigment chlorophyll, used in photosynthesis, which absorbs most wavelengths of visible light except green, reflecting that color into our eyes. As a consequence, plant colors created by pigmentation appear to be the exact same hue no matter which angle we view them from, and the color degrades when the plant dies.

P. condensata, however, produces its vibrant blue via tiny, nanoscale-size cellulose strands that are stacked inside its skin. These strands are arranged in layers of twisting, arced helix shapes, which interact with each other to scatter light and produce the fruit’s deep blue coloration. Here’s a view of the fruit through an electron microscope, revealing the presence of the color on a cellular level:

The plant’s deep blue hue is produced on a cellular level.

These strands also give the plant an even more fascinating quality, something that can (unfortunately) only be appreciated in person: Depending on how you hold the fruit and from what angle you view it, each of its skin cells actually appears to change color. This is because the distance between the stacked nanoscale fibers varies from cell to cell, so each cell produces a slightly different hue, reflecting light either to the left or right, depending on your vantage point. This accounts for its striking, pixellated appearance:

Each skin cell produces a slightly different color, leading to the fruit’s pixellated effect.

The reason the fruit’s color lasts so remarkably long, it turns out, is because its color is built into its structure, rather than relying on pigments that can degrade over time. Researchers have reported seeing vibrant blue fruits hanging on dried-up, dead P. condensata stems in the field.

The research team also took a stab at explaining why the plant would go to such trouble to evolve a striking color—deception. By imitating the appearance of a juicy, nutritious plant, the color can trick birds and animals into eating the fruit, thereby widely dispersing the seeds inside when they defecate.

Although using animals for dispersal is a strategy common to many plants, most are forced to devote precious calories to produce a sweet, fleshy pulp. P. condensata, however, is able to spread its seeds simply by showing its true colors.


Krishna's Butterball in Mahabalipuram

Krishna’s Butterball is a curious tourist attraction in Mahabalipuram, a town about 60 km south of Chennai famous for its stone carvings. The “butterball” is a giant balancing rock, 5 meters in diameter, perched on a smooth slope, seemingly defying all laws of physics.

In Hindu mythology Lord Krishna had an insatiable appetite for butter, and as a child, would often sneak a handful from his mother’s butter jar. Situated on a hill slope near the Ganesh Ratha this massive natural rock boulder is attributed to a bolus of butter the young Krishna would steal.

The rock’s awkward position makes it quite popular with locals and tourists alike as it makes for an interesting backdrop for some whacky photographs. It’s a common sight to see visitors placing hands under the stone posing for pictures, which looks as though they are holding it up. The rock provides welcome shade if you dare to sit underneath it, and local kids have discovered that the slippery nearby hillside also makes a great natural slide.

Mahabalipuram is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram. Today's Mahabalipuram is purely a tourist town and one of the major attractions around Chennai. People visit this place to see the magnificent rock carvings, temples, cave sanctuaries, giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Blue Lake (Rotomairewhenua in Māori) is a small fresh water lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, in the northern reaches of New Zealand's Southern Alps. In a study conducted in 2011, researchers of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) have found that the lake has extreme visual clarity of up to 80 meters, which is considered almost as "optically clear" as distilled water. The visibility of Blue Lake even surpasses that of the renowned Te Waikoropupu Springs in Golden Bay which has a visibility of 63 meters.

Blue Lake is characterized by blue-violet hues seen only in the very clearest natural waters. The lake is spring fed from the neighboring glacial Lake Constance, but the water passes through landslide debris that forms a dam between the two lakes. The natural dam filters out nearly all the particles suspended in the water giving the lake the most intense natural blue-violet colour.

Nelson-based NIWA hydrologist Rob Merrilees first recognised that Blue Lake might be optically outstanding, having observed on tramping trips that this water body appeared broadly similar to Te Waikoropupu. He mentioned his suspicions to NIWA aquatic optics specialist, Dr Rob Davies-Colley, who had led the original work on Te Waikoropupu Springs. On a preliminary tramping visit to Blue Lake in March 2009, the two Robs were surprised to find that the visibility of Blue Lake exceeded that of Te Waikoropupu.

They subsequently organised a scientific study of the lake with involvement of NIWA scientist Mark Gall, an expert in ocean optics instrumentation. Several visits by helicopter (six in all) established that the horizontal visibility in the lake typically ranges from 70–80 metres.

"The theoretical visibility in distilled water is about 80 metres, as estimated from the best available instrumental measurements in the laboratory," says Dr Davies-Colley. "So Blue Lake is a close approach to optically pure water".


Beautiful Heart-Shaped Lakes in the World

Mother Nature shows again its romantic designs. I dug up on the internet and got surprised at just how many heart-shaped lakes there are in the world. Once you look down from above, you’ll find dozens of lakes and other bodies of water in the shape of the universal symbol for love all over the Earth’s surface. So here is a list of the most beautiful heart-shaped lakes around the world:

1 – Shimshal Lake – Pakistan

Shimshal Lake has the shape of a heart and it is beautifully located in Hunza Valley.

2 – Gaislacher See – Austria

The deep blue heart-shaped Gaislacher See is below the majestic Gaislachkogel Mountain.

3 – Heart Lake – Canada

Heart-shaped lake surrounded by fall colours, near Ompah, Ontario.

4 – The Coeur de Voh – New Caledonia

The Coeur de Voh is a mangrove swamp that resembles a heart in New Caledonia.

5 – Crater Lake (Narlı Göl ) – Turkey

Narlıgöl is a crater lake in the shape of a heart located on the border of the Cappadocia region.

6 – Heart Lake – Russia

You must take a 5-hour trekking and climb Peak Cherskogo to see the Lake Heart at the bottom of the mountain.

7 – Heart-Shaped Pond – USA

There is a heart-shaped pond near Strongsville in Ohio.

8 – Chicago Lakes – Colorado – USA

Looking down from the Upper Chicago Lake it is possible to see the heart-shaped Lower Chicago Lake.

9 – Aral Sea – Kazakhstan

Aral Sea has the shape of a heart in the northern tip of the western half of the Large Aral Sea. Unfortunately, its beautiful shape is due to the shrinking of the sea, which is considered “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.

10 – Eros Lake – India

On the way to Chembra Peak it is possible to see the heart-shaped Eros Lake.

11 – Lac du Montagnon – France

Lac du Montagnon is a heart-shaped lake located in Pyrénées National Park.

12 – Heart-Shaped Lake – Brazil

Here is an aerial view of a natural lake shaped like a heart that is fed by a spring in the Amazon River basin near Manaus.

13 – Heart-Shaped Lake – Portugal

In the middle of the São Gião Dunes, 5 km South from Nazaré, a heart-shaped lake can be found.

14 – Heart-shaped Lake – Albania

Heart-shaped lake in the Junik Mountains, Kosovo Alps.

15 – Heart-Shaped Lake – Greece

Heart-shaped lake saw from the top of the acropolis in the city of Lindos.

16 – Lake of Love (Озеро Любви) – Russia

Lake of Love is a heart-shaped lake in near Arkhyz.

17 – Heart-Shaped Lake – Switzerland

Heart-Shaped Lake in Piora Valley – Swiss Alps.

18 – Heart-Shaped Lake – Tibet

In Tibet, next to the Zhuo Yong Mountain there is a heart-shaped lake called Zhuo Yong Cuo.

19 – Northrup Lake – USA

Northrup is a heart-shaped lake near Banks Lake, in Washington.

20 – Rih Lake – Myanmar

Rih Lake is a heart-shaped lake located in Falam Township, Chin State.

21 – Siit Lake – Philippines

The heart-shaped Siit Lake is located in Sulu.

22 – Lagh del Calvaresc (Lago del Cuore) – Switzerland

At a heigh of 2214 meters, Lago del Cuore is a beautiful alpine lake in the shape of a heart.

23 – Trnovacko Lake – Montenegro

Set amidst huge rocky peaks, Trnovacko Lake is best known for its heart-like shape.

24 – Buyuk Lake (Büyük Göl) – Turkey

Buyuk Gol is a heart-shaped lake located in Yedigöller National Park.

25 – Lago di Scanno – Italy

From some angles of view it is possible to contemplate the Lake Scanno shaped like a heart.

26 – Valentine Lake – Canada

Valentine Lake is a heart-shaped lake located near Saxifrage Peak in British Columbia.

27 – Heart-Shaped Saline – Brazil

Heart-shaped Lake or Salina do Coração is located in the Brazilian Pantanal.

28 – Lago di Tom – Switzerland

Lago di Tom is a heart-shaped lake in the Piora Valley.

29 – Lake Borebukta – Norway

Known as the Pool of Love and surrounded by the artic landscape, the heart-shaped lake at Borebukta on the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen, Svalbard Archipelago, emerged after a glacier melted.

30 – Lower Kachura Lake – Pakistan
Shangrila Resort Skardu, also known as “Heaven on Earth”, is nestled amongst some of the world’s highest peaks and encircles the heart-shaped Lower Kachura Lake.