Cool Images: The Hidden Beauty Inside Plants


Spring brings with it a wide array of beautiful flowers, but the interior structures of plants can be just as stunning. Using powerful microscopes, researchers can peek into the many molecular bits and pieces that make up plants. Check out these cool plant images from our Image and Video Gallery that NIGMS-funded scientists created while doing their research.

Several round structures that are yellow at the center and pink and purple around the edges and have honeycomb-like interiors. Credit: Arun Sampathkumar and Elliot Meyerowitz, California Institute of Technology.

In plants and animals, stem cells can transform into a variety of different cell types. The stem cells at the growing tip of this Arabidopsis plant will soon become flowers. Cellular and molecular biologists frequently study Arabidopsis because it grows rapidly (its entire life cycle is only 6 weeks), produces lots of seeds, and has a genome that’s easy to manipulate.

A group of purple-and-yellow spheres covered in yellow spikes. Credit: Edna, Gil, and Amit Cukierman, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA.

Those of us who get sneezy and itchy-eyed every spring or fall may have pollen grains, like those shown here, to blame. Pollen grains are the male germ cells of plants, released to fertilize the corresponding female plant parts. When they are inhaled into human nasal passages, they can trigger allergies. 

A blue, smooth-edged leaf with green veins and a red-and-green stem. Credit: Suzana Car and Mary Lou Guerinot, Dartmouth College.

Zinc is required for the function of more than 300 enzymes, including those that help regulate gene expression, in various organisms and humans. Researchers study how plants acquire and distribute zinc, and seek ways to increase the zinc content of crops to improve human health. This image, created with synchrotron X-ray fluorescence technology, shows a heat map of zinc levels in an Arabidopsis thaliana plant leaf.

Visit our Image and Video Gallery for more fascinating images.