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Gazanias are popular plants in the Daisy family (Asteraceae), grown for their showy petals. Like other members of the family, the Gazania ‘flower’ is a collection of hundreds of tiny ‘disc flowers’ in a central group, with a number of further ‘ray flowers’ arranged around the outside, each with an enlarged, asymmetrical petal.
Gazania petals show a microstructure of flat cells featuring tiny folds running from the base of the petal to the tip. The reason for this architecture is unclear, but it is likely to do with water: while the petals overall repel water, causing it to form droplets, the folds cause the droplets to stick to the petal. A water droplet on the petal surface looks spherical, but cannot roll off even when the flower is turned upside down. Structures such as these could be useful in microscopic devices used for collection of very small quantities of liquid. The surface structures would first trap the liquid, then guide it in a preferred direction for collection and analysis.
Flower picture: AlvesGaspar / CC BY 2.5. Microscope picture: Kerstin Koch, Rhine Waal University, Germany.