Buckling as an origin of ordered cuticular patterns in flower petals

Rea L. Antoniou Kourounioti, Leah R. Band, John A. Fozard, Anthony Hampstead, Anna Lovrics, Edwige Moyroud, Silvia Vignolini, John R. King, Oliver E. Jensen# & Beverley J. Glover#

The optical properties of plant surfaces are strongly determined by the shape of epidermal cells and by the patterning of the cuticle on top of the cells. Combinations of particular cell shapes with particular nanoscale structures can generate a wide range of optical effects. Perhaps most notably, the development of ordered ridges of cuticle on top of flat petal cells can produce diffraction-grating-like structures. A diffraction grating is one of a number of mechanisms known to produce ‘structural colours’, which are more intense and pure than chemical colours and can appear iridescent. We explore the concept that mechanical buckling of the cuticle on the petal epidermis might explain the formation of cuticular ridges, using a theoretical model that accounts for the development of compressive stresses in the cuticle arising from competition between anisotropic expansion of epidermal cells and isotropic cuticle production. Model predictions rationalize cuticle patterns, including those with long-range order having the potential to generate iridescence, for a range of different flower species.

Journal of The Royal Society Interface 10 (80)