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Monday, March 07, 2005

Israeli flower cells shaped like Star of David

This is too cool!

Israeli 'survivor' flower boasts cells in shape of Star of David



"We have never before seen a structure like this in the cell walls of plants," says Dr. Rina Kamenetsky. "This is a very rare structure - maybe even unique."










It's known as the ultimate survivor. It grows wild in Israel, thriving in the harsh dry conditions that would kill many other plants.

And what do the cells of this hardy survivor - a native Israeli Persian buttercup - look like under a microscope?

A Star of David.

"It really is symbolic," says Dr. Rina Kamenetsky, a researcher at Israel's Volcani Institute, who made the surprising discovery while trying to understand the survival mechanisms of this resilient bulb, known in Hebrew as nurit, and in Latin as Ranunculus asiaticus.

The flower from the Holy Land is also known in botanical circles as a type of 'resurrection plant' which, explains Kamenetsky, means that it can live without water, and is 'resurrected' when water becomes available.

Kamenetsky brought samples of the native Israeli type of this Mediterranean species to study during a sabbatical leave at the University of Guelph in Canada last year. She and her Canadian colleagues discovered that the storage roots of this particular Persian buttercup have a special mechanism for resisting drought and heat that is found in no other plant to date - a finding they published recently in the journal New Phytologist.

But Kamenetsky also found an additional surprise: under a microscope the cells of the root assume the form of interlocking Stars of David.

"When my Canadian colleague Professor Larry Peterson saw it, he called me over right away and said: 'Look, Rina: here's something especially for you.' I was truly amazed," she told ISRAEL21c.

It was the first time that Kamenetsky, a leading floriculturist, had seen a Star of David pattern on the cells of any plant.

It turns out that the cell walls of the storage roots of this particular plant serve as a shield. In winter, when the first rain comes, the cell walls block the sudden influx of water which could cause the cells to burst. At the same time, they protect the cells from dehydration by absorbing water.

The cell walls that serve as a year-round shield also happen to look like a shield - the shield of David.

"We have never before seen a structure like this in the cell walls of plants," she says. "This is a very rare structure - maybe even unique."