Space Age Art?
These are color enhanced
images of
Nelumbo and Victoria
pollen from

 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's
Scanning Electron Microscope

by Pat Clifford, RBGE Senior Horticulturist 
Images by Frieda Christie, RBGE Microscopist
Click images to enlarge

We are fortunate to have a scanning electron microscope at the Garden and I thought it might be fun to see some images of the aquatics. When I approached the head of the microscopy department with the idea she was very enthusiastic, having never worked with aquatics before. The results are amazing.
My first reason for having the images taken was my belief that the spines on Victoria produce some sort of poison. Because the pain is not consistent with a small pinprick, I thought maybe there was a poison sack or gland near the tip or at the very least a nasty barb on the tip. This proved not to be the case when the spine was examined under the light microscope. As you can see the spine looks innocuous.  

I couldn't believe what I was seeing when I was presented with the images from the scanning electron microscope. Image 1 shows a close up of the spine and at random places over it there are small tubes protruding. Our first thoughts were that these tubes were produced by the plant for some reason, but then one of the scientists suggested that perhaps the tube was the remnant of the feeding tube of some insect. After lengthy discussions the most likely explanation is that the tube was constructed by a single cell ciliate. We think it is an amoeba probably of the genus Vaginicola

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

In images 2 and 3 we have a testate amoeba probably from the genus Euglypha, which is grazing on the bacteria growing on the debris that has stuck to the tube.

How Nelumbo leaves shed water

I have always been intrigued by the Nelumbo leaves and the way they shed water. This first image shows the wax-producing glands and also you can see the stomata with their guard cells. > 

The image at the left is a real close up of the gland. You can see how the plant manages to get rid of the water which falls onto the leaf.

Several interesting images using the standard light microscope

Nelumbo anther with pollen.

Nelumbo stigma above showing ovules below.

 Nelumbo nucifera stigma and pollen

Stigma with pollen grains

Close up of single pollen grain

Close up of surface of pollen grain

Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' pollen, completely different from Nelumbo

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