Close-up View of the Wildflower
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
In the world of wildflowers, scarlet
pimpernel must be considered a diminutive, but beautiful
amusement. In fact, the genus name Anagallis is
derived from the Greek for "amusing". The long-stalked, nodding
flowers are salmon to scarlet in colour, and usually about 1/4 inch (6
mm) in diameter. These flowers open only in full sunlight, and
close as cloudy weather approaches. This habit has led to the
plant being called the "poor man's weatherglass". Scarlet
pimpernel is a member of the primrose family (Primulaceae).
The image above shows a typical flower with its five petals, and an
equal number of sharply pointed green sepals. The bloom is
supported by a long, thin stalk which droops alarmingly as soon as the
plant is cut, or removed from the ground. This means that
photographing the flower, after transporting it home, is more difficult
than usual. I find that allowing the cut stem (or roots) to stand
in water for about an hour revives the little plant, if it is kept
beside a sunny window. Because of the extremely small size of the
bloom, quite high magnification is required to fill the frame with the
A photograph of an entire plant reveals the two possible leaf
arrangements: a whorl of three, (near the flower), and two
opposing, (beneath). The leaves (rounded with triangular tips)
may, or may not be attached to the stem by stalks. I found the
plants growing in the grass at the edge of a park. They were very
difficult to see, as their height was about three centimetres and the
grass growing around them was several centimetres higher. Only
their bright colour brought them to my attention.
From beneath, the five sepals, (modified leaves), can be seen to bisect
each pair of petals. Notice the lighter colour of the back of
each petal compared to the front. Because of this, the deep
purple spot on the base of each petal is easier to see.
A side view of the bloom shows that the centre, where the petals are
fused, is covered with fine, pure white, hairy fibers. From these
fibers project five stamens, and a pistil.
The image below shows the positions of these organs, with the pistil in
the centre of the flower, and the stamens surrounding it in a ring.
A slightly higher magnification reveals more details in the two flowers
Notice the tiny red hairs that cover the filament supporting each
yellow anther (the male, pollen producing organ). Since scarlet
pimpernel flowers do not produce nectar solution, these hairs may serve
to attract nearby insects.
A microscope with dark-ground illumination shows more detail. At
the top of each image is the pollen encrusted anther. The red
filament supporting the anther can be seen (in the right-hand image) to
be comprised of elongated reddish cells with white edges. The
unusual hairs seem to be made up of a series of globular sections
which increase in size away from the filament.
A much higher magnification reveals the striations on the surface of
these ellipsoidal hair sections.
The style and stigma (the female, pollen accepting organ) of the flower
is visible in the photomicrograph below. The style does not have
the hairs that are seen on the filaments. Notice that scarlet
pimpernel pollen appears to be ellipsoidal in shape.
After the flower has matured and died, the ovary swells and ripens to
form a globular seed capsule. Notice in the image below, that the
five sepals remain, as does what is left of the pistil. If
you look carefully, the forming circular seeds are visible beneath the
green translucent membrane.
Scarlet pimpernel propagates entirely by seeds. The plant dies
completely as cold weather arrives.
When I started searching for wildflowers to photograph at the beginning
of the summer, it was the larger blooms that were my first
subjects. A glint of red in the grass caught my attention one
day, and I was shocked to find that I had been walking on these little
marvels as I searched. Obviously not all spectacular flowers are
large in size!
The low magnification photographs
in the article were taken using a Nikon Coolpix 4500 with a combination
of natural light and the Nikon Cool light SL-1. Higher
magnification images were taken with natural light using a Sony
CyberShot DSC-F 717 equipped with a combination of achromatic close-up
lenses (Nikon 5T, 6T and shorter focal length achromat) which screw
into the 58 mm filter threads of the camera lens. (These produce
a magnification of from 0.5X to 9X 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 717. (The magnification here is about 13X for a
4x6 inch image.) The photomicrographs were taken with a Leitz SM-Pol
microscope (using a dark ground condenser), and the Coolpix 4500.
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of all
of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World of
A complete graphical index of all
of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the June
2009 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 .