Optical structure and function of the white filamentary hair covering the edelweiss bracts

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2005 Jan;71(1 Pt 1):011906. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.71.011906. Epub 2005 Jan 19.


The optical properties of the inflorescence of the high-altitude Leontopodium nivale subsp. alpinum (edelweiss) is investigated, in relation with its submicrometer structure, as determined by scanning electron microscopy. The filaments forming the hair layer have been found to exhibit an internal structure which may be one of the few examples of a photonic structure found in a plant. Measurements of light transmission through a self-supported layer of hair pads taken from the bracts supports the idea that the wooly layer covering the plant absorbs near-ultraviolet radiation before it reaches the cellular tissue. Calculations based on a photonic-crystal model provide insight on the way radiation can be absorbed by the filamentary threads.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asteraceae / cytology*
  • Asteraceae / physiology*
  • Asteraceae / radiation effects
  • Computer Simulation
  • Hair / cytology*
  • Hair / physiology*
  • Hair / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Models, Biological*
  • Refractometry / methods*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship