why do plants have these other pigments besides chlorophyll

Chloroplasts are tiny factories inside the cells of plants. They are also found in the cells of other organisms that use photosynthesis. Chloroplasts take the energy from the sunlight and use it to make plant food. The food can be used immediately to give cells energy or it can be stored as sugar or starch. If stored, it can be used later when the plant needs to do work, like grow a new branch or make a flower. Inside chloroplasts are special stacks of pancake-shaped structures called thylakoids (Greek thylakos = sack or pouch). Thylakoids have an outer membrane that surrounds an inner area called the lumen. The light-dependent reactions happen inside the thylakoid. Our cells have mitochondria (Greek mitos = thread, and khondrion = little granule), our energy-producing structures. We don't have any chloroplasts. Plants have both mitochondria and chloroplasts. Both mitochondria and chloroplasts convert one form of energy into another form that cells can use. How did plants get chloroplasts? Chloroplasts were once free-living bacteria! Chloroplasts entered a symbiotic (Greek syn = together, and bios = life) relationship with another cell, which eventually led to the plant cells we have today.


Chlorophyll, a green pigment found in chloroplasts, is an important part of the light-dependent reactions. Chlorophyll soaks up the energy from sunlight. It is also the reason why plants are green. You may remember that colors are different wavelengths of light. Chlorophyll captures red and blue wavelengths of light and reflects the green wavelengths. Plants have different types of pigments besides chlorophyll. Some of them also assist in absorbing light energy. These different pigments are most noticeable during the fall. During that time, plants make less chlorophyll and the other colors are no longer hidden beneath green. But why don't plants have pigments that allow them to capture all wavelengths of light? If you've ever gotten a sunburn you know firsthand that sunlight can be damaging. Plants can also be damaged from excess light energy. Luckily, there are non-chlorophyll pigments in plants that provide a 'sunscreen'. Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Algae image by Leonardo RГ-Jorge.
Answer 4: I'm a little confused about your question.


Chlorophyll pigment is always green. Plant leaves and stems aren't always green because they have many pigments other than chlorophyll. Pigments are molecules that absorb specific colors of light and reflect other colors, depending on their chemical structure. The reflected colors are what give pigments their color. Chlorophyll pigments are green because they reflect green light. There are different types of chlorophyll (chlorophyll-a, chlorophyll-b, chlorophyll-c1, chlorophyll-c2, chlorophyll-d, divinyl chlorophyll-a). These different types of chlorophyll are the same basic molecule with very slight differences in their chemical structures. Because the different chlorophylls have the same basic structure, they all reflect green light and so appear green, but their small structural differences cause them to be different shades of green (yellow-green, lime green, forest green, blue-green, etc. ). To see the structure of chlorophyll, go to Land plants (and plants in the ocean, called algae) have a lot of chlorophyll-a pigment because it is essential to photosynthesis, but they also have other pigments, called accessory pigments, that help them absorb light.


These accessory pigments can be other chlorophylls or they can be completely different pigments with completely different colors, including yellow (xanthophylls), orange (carotenes), red and purple (phycobilins) or brown and gray (phaeophytin). Most land plants are green (their stems and leaves, anyway) because the accessory pigments are chlorophylls, including chlorophyll-b and chlorophyll-c. When green leaves "turn colors" in the fall, or turn yellow due to nutrient limitation or disease, the chlorophylls are breaking down and being re-absorbed, allowing the other pigments to show through. If you've even been scuba diving or snorkeling, you may have noticed that only some algae in the ocean are green and that most are brown, red, purple, yellow or even iridescent blue. The study of land plants is called botany and the study of algae is called phycology. I myself am a phycologist because I study marine algae. To read more about photosynthetic pigment, including chlorophyll, go to Click to return to the search form.

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