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November 15, 2012
"Self-fertilization," by Heiti Paves, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Within its tiny, white flowers, thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) does what most plants avoid--it fertilizes itself. Paves took this photograph of the flower with its pollen grains and ovaries stained blue to show the process in action. From the six pollen heads, the grains grow thin tubes toward the bean-shaped ovaries in the flower's stigma to fertilize them. Because of the microscope technique used, polarized light turns the normally white flower yellow and the background blue. Scientists have used A. thaliana in many genetic studies because its self-fertilization makes experiments clearer. Gregor Mendel, a 19th century priest and scientist, used the self-fertilizing pea plant to build his genetic theories, Paves notes. This image won Honorable Mention in the Photography category of the 2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge (SciVis) competition, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science. The competition is held each year to celebrate the grand tradition of science visualization and to encourage its continued growth. The spirit of the competition is to communicate science, engineering and technology for education and journalistic purposes. To learn more about the competition and view all the winning entries, see the NSF SciVis Special Report (Date of Image: 2006) Credit: Heiti Paves and Birger Ilau, Tallinn University of Technology