16 Feb 2012

Horopito - Red Leaves, Hot Taste

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 16 February 2012

Most plants have green leaves, which relates to the pigment chlorophyll and how a plant creates its energy from sunlight. But some plants have red leaves, and the question of why this is so intrigues Victoria University plant physiologist Kevin Gould and Plant and Food Research and University of Otago chemist Nigel Perry.

They tell Alison Ballance how they collaborated in a series of experiments involving the native plant horopito, or pepper tree, to find out how and why the redness of the leaves related to the hot properties caused by a chemical called polygodial.

Some of the research was published in a paper in New Phytologist – ‘Red leaf margins indicate increased polygodial content and function as visual signals to reduce herbivory in Pseudowintera colorata’.