How Plants “Work”

Although the current temperature in California hints at spring weather, I was still surprised to see tinges of green on some of the trees, especially as over a month of winter is still to be expected.

This led me to recall a recent biology lecture at school onto why and how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis and why they are green, and it was fascinating for me to connect school knowledge to something I witnessed on the streets and hiking trails!
Here is a brief summary: Plants appear green because they can absorb and use all light except for green, which they reflect. These light particles, called photons, strike leaf pigments called chlorophyll. The photons breaks down water, releasing the oxygen that we need to survive, and energize electrons, which latch onto electron carriers and go through a series of chemical reactions. This creates an electrical gradient, ultimately leading to formation of high-energy molecules such as ATP. This leads to the Calvin Cycle, where enzymes along with electron carriers transform ATP into the much more stable form of energy: glucose. The plant can use the glucose for all the things we do – to grow, to metabolize – or we can tap that tree for sap such as maple syrup.  This is a highly efficient process that makes use of our most plentiful energy resource — light.

This cool connection to my biology lecture allowed me to realize how amazing plants truly are – and how under appreciated they are. The next time I hike, I’ll be sure to admire these trees in all their beauty – and for all they do for us!


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