August 10, 2005

Scientists work out why cornflowers are blue

LONDON (Reuters) - Roses are red, cornflowers are blue and
after nearly a century of trying, scientists say they have
worked out why.

As early as 1913, scientists found that the pigment in
roses which makes them red also occurs in cornflowers and was
thought to be responsible for making them blue.

The discovery was puzzling because the pigment is not found
in other blue flowers.

Now, researchers at Gakugei University in Tokyo say they
have worked out the molecular structure of the pigment in
cornflowers and found it is slightly different to the structure
of the pigment in roses.

The difference lies in the arrangement of metal ions --
atoms of iron, magnesium and calcium -- inside the molecule.

Writing in the science magazine Nature, the scientists said
they believed they had found "a previously undiscovered type of
supermolecular pigment" which explains the striking difference
in color.