The outer layers of a range of plant tissues, including flower petals, leaves and fruits, exhibit an intriguing variation of microscopic structures. Some of these structures include ordered periodic multilayers and diffraction gratings that give rise to interesting optical appearances. The colour arising from such structures is generally brighter than pigment-based colour. Here, we describe the main types of photonic structures found in plants and discuss the experimental approaches that can be used to analyse them. These experimental approaches allow identification of the physical mechanisms producing structural colours with a high degree of confidence.
Keywords: iridescence; multilayer interference; plant cuticle; spectroscopy; structural colour in plants.