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Japanese flower is first to show bidirectional color change

The Causonis Japanica plant, located in Japan, is the first to show a bidirectional color change, an exception in the world of flowers. It is common for flowers to change color. They do so for various reasons, mainly to attract insects for pollination. The color changes increase their visibility, making them more attractive to pollinators. This is common, but for a flower to change color to its original color again is unique to the Causonis Japonica.

This phenomenon compelled two professors from Tokyo to carefully study the plant’s flowers using time-lapse videos. The flowers are originally orange but turn to bright pink and orange again. The orange color is seen in the flower during the male stage of the flower’s maturation process when it is secreting nectar. When the stamen becomes old, the flower turns pink, and hours later, the pistil—which is the female part of a flower—begins to mature; it produces nectar, turning it orange again. After this, the flower turns pink again.

The chemical associated with the flower’s turning orange is a carotenoid. This is the same chemical that gives carrots their orange color and is rich in vitamin A. Researchers believe that accumulating the fast-acting carotenoids discovered in the Causonis Japonica can provide insights into developing carotenoid-rich vegetables that mature faster and produce higher yields of resourceful vitamins. This could be a game changer in agricultural production.

“Our next steps will be to find out what is governing the behaviors we have observed,” said study author Hirokazu Tsukaya, professor at the University of Tokyo. “One big question we have is, are what levels are the stages of cycles regulated? Is it caused by proteins caught up in a feedback cycle? Or does something occur on a generic level? We will continue to explore this and hope to find an explanation soon.”

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