What’s small, blue, shiny and not a gem?
It’s not a trick question. There is a plant native to African rainforests that produces a fruit so shiny, it almost seems to glow. At first glance, the blue berry looks like a shiny brooch your grandmother or a great aunt would wear, but believe it or not, it’s not a piece of jewellery.
This weird and unusual plant is called the Pollia condensata and can be found in the rainforests of Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique. The fruit is nicknamed “marble berry,” for its beautiful clusters of shiny marble-like berries.
Impressively, due to its special structure, the brilliant blue colour will not fade. The fruit appears blue, but it does not contain any pigments, which tend to fade over time. The intense, iridescent colour comes from the light reflected off thick layers of cells in the fruit’s skin. Thicker layers of the cellulose reflect red and green, while the thinner layers reflect blue. In other words, colour is built into its structure.
The distance between these layers vary from cell to cell, which gives the fruit its pixelated and luminous appearance. Each cell of the fruit will reflect light, reflecting different colours at different angles.
The bright, blue is so intense, scientists are calling the Pollia Condensata nature’s most colourful biological species. And of course, with something so bright and so eye-catching, birds are attracted to the fruit. They will sometimes decorate their nests with them or use them to attract mates.
The fruit isn’t poisonous, but it isn’t exactly edible either. It may look like a juicy, delectable fruit, but the pollia condensata is basically just a shell filled with hard seeds. And it doesn’t have any nutritional value.