Blue plants are wondrous and not just because they’re like something on the set of ‘Avatar’


Blue Java bananas

News that ‘Current Biology’ has unveiled research on a blue shrub, a relatively uncommon colour in plants, reminded me of the Blue Java banana seeds my neighbour recently gave me.

‘Current Biology’ describes the Mediterranean Viburnum tinus shrub’s blue fruit colour and posits that it “could serve as an honest signal of nutritional lipid content” for birds. In other words, the shrub promises a good feed to those who will help disperse its seeds.

Most arrangements in nature are symbiotic.

The study was conducted by electron microscopy of the fruit’s skin. The Economist subsequently noted something I hadn’t thought of before: there is “a dearth of naturally occurring blue pigments” so if there is a blue living thing, it’s more likely to be a bird or an insect. Think peacock’s tail feathers or a butterfly’s wings.

The research on blue plants made me keen to sow the Blue Java banana seeds. The fruit looks unreal, like something on the filmset of ‘Avatar’. It’s a deep Mediterranean blue, with a dash of grey-green. And the PR is unbelievable. The Blue Java banana is supposed to taste like ice cream although that’s disputed.