Have blue flowers arrived?

For centuries breeders have sought to make true blue flowers, yet there is no true blue pigment in plants.

(Image source @ScienceAdvances on Twitter)

In nature, blue is much rarer than you might think. Sure, the sky is blue when the weather’s nice, and so is the ocean. But the vast majority of plants and animals are incapable of making blue pigment. Brilliantly-colored peacocks appear blue not because their feathers are colored that way, but because of how they reflect light. Less than 10 percent of the world’s 280,000 flowering plants produce blue flowers, which may be why they’re often a symbol of the unattainable in folklore and literature.

Suntory Global Innovation Center, Blue Roses

Scientists genetically engineer the world’s first blue chrysanthemum

Generation of blue chrysanthemums by anthocyanin B-ring hydroxylation and glucosylation and its coloration mechanism

Tomato plants turn munching caterpillars into cannibals

It turns out that cannibalism is widespread among the insects that otherwise spend their time munching on plants. “It often starts with one caterpillar biting another one in the rear, which then oozes,” said University of Wisconsin–Madison’s John Orrock in a press release describing his work. “And it goes downhill from there. At the end of the day, somebody gets eaten.”

It’s considered a stress response to a lack of food. What surprised Orrock was that this behavior sometimes took place on plants. You know, the things these caterpillars are supposed to be eating. If the food’s right there, why would these insects be turning on each other?

It all comes back to the chemicals a plant releases to say “watch out, I’m being eaten.” This is typically some chemical relative of jasmonic acid, a regulator of plant stress responses. While jasmonic acid can be used to coordinate a plant’s own response to stress, it also gets out into the environment and alerts other plants that something stressful is going on.

Induced defences in plants reduce herbivory by increasing cannibalism

More info:
Jasmonic acid distribution and action in plants: Regulation during development and response to biotic and abiotic stress