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Maize leaves

Fernán Federici, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and University of Cambridge

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Looking inside a cluster of leaves from a young maize (corn) plant reveals lots of details and organised structure. Each curled leaf is made up of lots of small cells (small green square and rectangle shapes), and inside each cell is a nucleus (orange circle), the part of the cell which stores genetic information. Maize is one of the most widely grown cereal crops in the world. It is used as a staple food, in livestock feed, and as a raw material – such as for processing into high-fructose corn syrup. Genetically modified maize crops are being grown to be resistant to pests and herbicides. Image created in collaboration with Jim Haseloff and OpenPlant Cambridge.

The image is approximately 250 micrometres (0.25 mm) wide.

Imaging technique: confocal microscopy

A type of light microscopy that uses visible light (usually in the form of one or more lasers) to illuminate part of the object being viewed. Out-of-focus light above and below the point of focus is filtered out and eliminated from the final image. Thin optical slices through an object can be stacked on top of one another to produce a digital 3D reconstruction.

Location where image was created

Cambridge, UK

Why did the judges choose this image?

“Although seeming boring when viewed with the naked eye, maize leaves have such a delicate and intricate structure under the microscope, captured so wonderfully by this picture. The level of detail as demonstrated by the image reminds us how complex even relatively simple organisms are when seen on this scale.”

James Cutmore, Picture Editor of BBC Focus

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