Friday Fellow: Peacock Spikemoss

by Piter Kehoma Boll

This is the last Friday Fellow of the year and I decided to choose a beautiful and little known plant, the peacock spikemoss, more commonly known as Willdenow’s spikemoss or peacock fern, and scientifically known as Selaginella willdenowii.

The most impressive feature of this species is the blue iridescence of its leaves, which can be quite intense depending on the light reflecting on them. This blue color is caused by a very thin layer of cells in the upper cuticle of the leaves that produces a thin-film interference, a phenomemon such as the one that makes a soap bubble look colorful.

selaginella_willdenowii

Look how blue it can get! Amazing, huh? Photo by Bernard Dupont.*

The peacock spikemoss is native from Southeast Asia, more precisely from the region around Singapore, and is adapted to areas of extreme shade. The blue iridescence is therefore an adaptation to reflect the strong sunlight that may reach the plant through openings in the canopy.

Some Asian cultures use the peacock spikemoss in traditional medicine and studies have shown that the plant has important antioxidant properties. So why not to try an iridescent blue tea?

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References:

Chai, Tsun-Thai, & Wong, Fai-Chu (2012). Antioxidant properties of aqueous extracts of Selaginella willdenowii Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 6 (7) DOI: 10.5897/JMPR11.1378

EOL – Encyclopedia of Life. Willdenow’s Spikemoss. Available at: <http://eol.org/pages/595324/overview&gt;. Access on December 28, 2016.

Wikipedia. Selaginella willdenowii. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selaginella_willdenowii&gt;. Access on December 28. 2016.

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*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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