Close-up View of the "African Blue Lily"
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
the name of this flower suggests, African Blue Lily is not a plant that
one is likely to see growing in Canada. The cut-flower sample
photographed in this article was obtained at a florist’s, where it was
intended to be used in flower arrangements. Blue Lily of the Nile is an
alternative name for the plant. Most florists simply call it
Agapanthus. Native to South Africa, it was brought back to Europe
by travellers who stopped at the Cape to replenish supplies.
The genus name Agapanthus is
derived from the Greek “agape”, meaning love, and “anthos” meaning
flower. (Literal translation – love flower, or flower of
love.) The species name orientalis
probably refers to its exotic appearance. African Blue Lily belongs to
the Liliaceae family.
As can be seen in the first image
in the article, the flower-head, (called an umbel), contains many purplish-blue
funnel-shaped flowers and buds on short green stalks. The stem,
which can be up to one metre in length, is extremely strong; in fact I
found it difficult to cut with a sharp knife.
Note in the image below, that there
are no tiny leaflets (called sepals)
at the base of the flower in this species.
The buds of Agapanthus are as
strikingly colourful as the flowers. They tend to elongate as
Very immature buds have a white
base with blue top. As they age, the buds develop a blue tint all
Many buds have discernible white
spots, like those on the one to the right below.
The following images show the
points of connection of flowers to their stalks.
At the base of the flower-head
there is a visible brown ring of dead plant material. The image
on the right shows a much higher magnification image of a portion of
Each flower has six petals which
are fused at the base of the funnel. Notice that the inside of
each petal is white, and has a purplish-blue edge and stripe.
The six stamens (male reproductive organs),
consisting of brown anthers
and white filaments, are
longer than the flower’s petals and extend out beyond them.
This can clearly be seen in the
three images that follow. (A single flower was removed from the
umbel in order to remove visual distractions.)
When I first examined one of the
flowers, I couldn’t find the pistil,
the female reproductive organ (stigma
supported by style).
It was only when I removed the
petals that the pistil showed itself. The left image below shows
that the pistil is very short, and is enclosed by the fused bottom
of the funnel. A higher magnification view of the structure is
shown in the right-hand image.
Under the microscope, the
stigma reveals itself in a low magnification image (left), and in a
higher magnification image (right).
The base of the style, (at the top
of the image below), connects to the ovary in which the seeds develop.
Two views of a second, older stigma
follow. As the flower ages, both the filaments and style of the
flower seem to darken to a blue colour.
Six brown, pollen covered
anthers project out from the end of the flower.
A higher magnification begins to
resolve individual pollen grains on an anther.
The photomicrograph on the left
below shows many grains sticking to the edge of an anther. On the
right is a much higher magnification phase-contrast image of a single
Strangely, not all anthers are
encrusted with pollen. The one shown below has practically no
pollen grains sticking to it. The photomicrograph on the right
shows the rough surface of an anther.
Winter-time snow and ice may
prevent an amateur macro-photographer from imaging native
wildflowers. One solution to the problem is to visit a friendly
neighbourhood florist for blooms from more tropical climates!
The photographs in the article were
taken with an eight megapixel Sony CyberShot DSC-F 828 equipped with
achromatic close-up lenses (Nikon 5T, 6T, Sony VCL-M3358, and shorter
focal length achromat) used singly or in combination. The lenses screw
into the 58 mm filter threads of the camera lens. (These produce
a magnification of from 0.5X to 10X for a 4x6 inch image.) Still
higher magnifications were obtained by using a macro coupler (which has
two male threads) to attach a reversed 50 mm focal length f 1.4 Olympus
SLR lens to the F 828. (The magnification here is about 14X for a
4x6 inch image.) The photomicrographs were taken with a Leitz SM-Pol
microscope (using a dark ground condenser), and the Coolpix
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the August
2006 edition of Micscape.
Please report any Web problems or
offer general comments to the Micscape
Micscape is the on-line monthly magazine
of the Microscopy UK web
site at Microscopy-UK
Onview.net Ltd, Microscopy-UK, and all contributors 1996 onwards. All
rights reserved. Main site is at www.microscopy-uk.org.uk
with full mirror at www.microscopy-uk.net .