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Discover the hidden colours beneath these beautiful native flowers

The beauty of flowers has been captured by poets and painters alike. But did you know that many flowers have a whole other layer of ethereal beauty that you cannot see? Through a type of photography called UVIVF or “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” we can uncover a new world of floral splendour.

Biofluorescence is a phenomenon by which organisms absorb light and transform it, ejecting it back out into the world as different colours. This gives the organism the appearance of ‘glowing in the dark’. Common among many animals and plants, its stunning beauty is akin to something out of the movie Avatar.

These photos taken by Horticulturalist Kaishan Qu at Royal Botanic Garden Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens, provides a glimpse into the stunning, alien-looking world of floral fluorescence.

How does it work?

It is believed that there are pigments within the tissues of plants that are responsible for these displays. Betaxanthins, anthocyanins and chlorophyll are such pigments, which can absorb electromagnetic wavelengths from the spectrum of visible light and then remit them at different wavelengths (and different colours).

These remitted wavelengths are so faint, it’s hard to see without special long-exposure photography methods. Horticulturalist Kaishan Qu used a UV torch, a filter that allows only certain wavelengths of light to pass through it and a camera to take these stunning photos.*

Why does this happen?

Not all flowers can fluoresce, and we are slowly discovering the ones that do.

Some scientists argue flower fluorescence is used as a visual signal to attract pollinators – similar to airport marshals that guide landed planes to the correct place with bright orange batons.

There are scientists that refute this, as the world that insects see is not as colourful as the ones we can see in these pictures. The ‘glowing’ light is also very negligible. So in reality, the reason behind this amazing glowing phenomenon remains a mystery to us.

But for now, we can be content with just admiring this hidden beauty from these amazing photos.

All the photos taken by Kaishan Qu are of native Australian flowers which can be found in Cranbourne Gardens. Come for a visit and check out what colour they are in daylight for yourself!

*For the budding photographers out there, he used a 365nm filter


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