Plant color and function of chlorophyll, carotenoids, anthocyanins and betalains

I will start this delivery, extending a sincere thanks to all users of the HIVE platform who visit and leave their comments on the blog, this time I will break part of the methodical structure, in order to share a more fresh and colorful delivery.

Bio-pigments are molecular structures specialized in capturing photons of light, in other words, they are the biomolecules that plant species use to execute their physiological processes at a cellular level. It is important to indicate that the color that plant organs acquire, whether they are vegetative or reproductive, depends on the wavelengths that these bio-pigments do not absorb and therefore reflect.

Did you know that the color of plant species is not due to a single bio-pigment?

As I had already indicated, in the deliveries of the thematic series on Polychromatic Botany, in terms of plant coloring, the wide range of colors responds primarily to four (04) bio-pigments, among these, the chlorophyll, carotenoids, anthocyanins and betalains, is therefore, in summary I will outline the function of each of these biomolecules, and the color or colors that usually reflect.


The main biomolecule that plant species have is called chlorophyll, this bio-pigment of chromophore character provides them with the characteristic color Green to the foliar laminae (leaves) when participating of direct form in the photosynthetic activity.


The carotenoids, like the chlorophyll, are also chromophore biomolecules of photosynthetic quality, characterized by their ability to absorb light effectively, within the main carotenoids present in the leaf litter; α-carotene, β-carotene and xanthophylls, in relation to the wavelength absorbed, this is located between the blue-green visible light, reflecting visible spectra such as yellow, orange and red.


From the physiological, anthocyanins, are constituted by biomolecules with capacity to reflect visible light of color red, purple and blue, and even when, in some vegetal species they are found in the cellular vacuoles of the foliar mesophilic they do not participate directly in the photosynthetic process, nevertheless, the light energy captured by the anthocyanins is added to the one absorbed by the chlorophyll.


From the chemical point of view, betalains are water-soluble compounds of alkaloid groups, whose wavelength capture is located between the green-yellow visible light, and the subsequent broad spectrum visible as the pink, violet and yellow, as anthocyanins do not participate directly in the photosynthetic process either, their physiological activity is related to defense mechanisms to protect the foliar laminae against ultraviolet light, within the plant structures that have betalains are the bracts.


[1] Azcón-Bieto J., Talón M. Fundamentos de fisiología vegetal. McGraw-Hill – Interamericana de España, S.A.U. Segunda edición. 2008;171-173.

[2] Kelber A., Vorobyev M., and Osorio D. Animal colour vision—behavioural tests and physiological concepts. Biological Reviews. 2003;78:81-118.


The images, are property of the author @lupafilotaxia, and were captured with a digital camera Model Samsung HD 5X Touch Screen.

Original manuscript, uploaded from the Power House Creatives community website


That's a lot of useful information about plants. I think I would do a bit of reading about the topic since it made me really curious. Stay safe and many thanks for the informative post.

The wonderful world of plants is a window that allows us to visualize life from the biological point of view. Thank @chadrona you for your good wishes.