Coloring + plants?

Discussion in 'Plants: Science and Cultivation' started by Alex D, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. Alex D

    Alex D Member

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    Hi
    I'm an art student and the spring has inspired me to think about plants and the relation between them and urban space.

    I was wondering whether adding some sort of coloring to the soil or whatnot would produce an effect in plants. I remember making a leave red when I was a kid but I'm not sure whether it would work on a larger scale and without cutting anything off. Anyone got an idea?

    It goes without saying that I wanna use coloring that is non-toxic of course.
    Would injecting some amounts of beta-carotene work and be safe for the plant?
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Like turning a pink hydrangea into a blue one?

    I suppose the first question is: is the intent to attempt to colour plants already in the ground or is the intent to adjust the colour of flowers in a vase or similarly coloured environment? (if the former, I've plenty of experience of turning green plants into brown ones).
     
  3. Alex D

    Alex D Member

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    No the hydrangea 'effect' isnt really what I'm going for. Unless there are more plants that show different colouring when changing the pH of the soil?

    What I'm really trying to go for, hypothetically speaking, is making a tree's leaves in a park turn red.
    I remember when I was little, I had this book with all sorts of activities and one of them was cutting off a branch with a few leaves, putting it in a vase with water + red paint and watching the leaves turn red (a bit). That was crappy paint though, so it only worked primarily on the nerves. Probably because the paint-particles were too thick to enter the plants finer nerves etc.

    But, suppose I were to use pure extracted Lycopene, Canthaxanthin or β-carotene, organic compounds that act as an orange/red pigment in many fruits and plants, do you think I could make a green tree get red leaves? (or a green plant, still just speaking hypothetically here)
     
  4. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    My guess is that this would not work. Though it might be worth trying on a small scale -- say, a potted nursery specimen -- just to see.

    The reason it does work (to an extent) with cut branches, flowers, and the like, is that the water, including dissolved dyes, is taken up directly into the plant tissue. Water absorbed from the soil via the plant's root system is a different matter. Plants are rather sophisticated in how they process and distribute the raw contents of soil-borne moisture. I would suspect that large, non-nutritive molecules like those in organic dyes would be filtered out, broken down, or shunted aside somewhere before they make it all the way through the plant from root to leaf.

    That's just my guess, though.
     
  5. Alex D

    Alex D Member

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    Hmm alright thanks for the response

    So if it wouldnt work by feeding it through the soil, do you think there is some more direct way of injecting it? One that is, of course, safe for the plant?
     
  6. theredben

    theredben Active Member

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    I could see this working in theory. The only problem would be the logisitics of it in real life. To make it work with a tree, you would need a syringe with a strong enough tip to penetrate bark, which it obviously not going to happen. Even if you could make that work, you would need to puncture a mature plant literally thousands of time to affect all the leaves.

    It is probably best to just wait until fall.
     
  7. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Systemically dyeing of cut flowers , ferns, even smaller trees such as Oak and Aspen, are quite easily dyed with a class of dyes known commercially and acid dyes. All FD&C (Food Drug & Cosmetic) dyes are in the acid dye category and three of them work well for this purpose. However, all of the above plant material, must first be cut and then the end of the stems submerged into a dye solution so the dye is systemically sucked up the stems. Dyeing plant material that is still growing in the ground, or even containerized plants growing in potting mix, by absorption through their root system, does not work. The plant's roots simply absorb the water, but filter out the dyestuff. Robert Koch Industries in Colorado supplies almost all of the systemic dyes for coloring plant material in the United States. Besides marketing dyestuffs, they also dye, and preserve (in one application), approximately 5,000 pounds of Rocky Mountain cedar a week, plus hundreds of pounds of Gamble's Oak, and Quacking Aspen in various colors. Magnolia, Eucalyptus and many other agricultural material are also frequently dyed and preserved. However, all of these products have been cut from the plant and then systemically dyes and preserved. - Millet (1,388-)
     
  8. Alex D

    Alex D Member

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  9. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I have never seen that particular gun, but I was familiar with a gentlemen who drilled holes into the trunks of Aspen trees and then used a bucket of dye (that also included a wetting agent) along with a wick system. The bucket hung on a nail and was placed above the drilled hole, with a wick placed into the hole. The dye solution was monitored for a month or so I believe. It has been some time since I observed the operation so the time period could be + or -. The results received were long streaks of color that ran through the bark. The entire trunk did not color, only the part of the xylem system that actually ran through the drilled holes - very decorative. The rest of the wood stayed natural. I do not remember any of the leaves actually turning color. In the fall, after he leaves fell from the trees, he cut the trees down and used the colored wood to make bowls, plates, cups and various statuary. Actually the up take of dye would be much better, and faster if 2 ounces per gallon of DMSO (Dimethylsulfoxcide) was also added to the dye solution. Here is the web site of where you can purchase the absorption dyes. www.kochcolor.com

    Good luck,
    Millet (1,388-)
     
  10. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Would plants pick up any red colour if you watered them with beetroot juice?
     
  11. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    No plants will not take up beet juice.. Actually a plant would have a harder time absorbing beet juice than a dye stuff. However, commercially beet powder is an organic dyestuff in the industry. In the United States, beet is very rarely used, compared to FD&C Red 3 or FD&C Red 40. - Millet (1,387-)
     

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