The Shiniest Stuff of Life

This African fruit has earned the title of shiniest living material on Earth. It’s from a plant called Pollia condensata, and its candy-painted hues are not the result of traditional pigments like we’re used to seeing in plants. Normally, the greens, yellows, reds and oranges we see in leaves and fruits are deposits of pigmented molecules like carotene or lycopene.

Like the exotic iridescence seen in butterfly wings and jeweled beetles, this berry’s sparkle and shimmer is actually due to complex molecular structures that stack like a series of psychedelic reflectors. Cambridge University biophysicists recently decoded those structures. For more details on the nano-optical magic, visit Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science.