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What Makes a Plant Green?

Image by, courtesy of Randy

Chlorophyll is the chemical that contains the pigments that make plants green. The central ion, magnesium, and the four nitrogen molecules form bonds that make up chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is found in all plants, but different plants have different types of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll a, which is found in almost all plants, is green. Because plants play a huge role in the circle of life and because places that are very green are also places often teeming with life, green has come to be a symbol of life itself, as well as fertility and nature.


There are different types of chlorophyll: a, b, c and d. Chlorophyll a is found in most plants, b and c are found in freshwater plants and d is found in marine red algae. Chlorophyll d turns plants red. The other three types of chlorophyll turn plants green, which is why most plants have a green color.


A variety of chemicals come together, each with a different pigment, to give chlorophyll a green or blue-green color. These chemicals are the porphyrin ring, the chelated magnesium molecule, the hydrocarbon tail, the carotenes and the xanthophylls. The greenness of the chlorophyll makes it useful as a dye for commercial products. Chlorophyll has a green color because it absorbs red and blue-violet light, leaving only a green hue visible. Those exposed to the color green have been found to feel more sensitivity, compassion, calmness, drowsiness, stability and balance.


Chlorophyll absorbs light, which excites the electrons in the chlorophyll. This creates a chain reaction that causes the electron to travel through several parts of the chlorophyll until it reaches the carbon dioxide. After losing an electron, the chlorophyll is ready to absorb another electron from water.


Plants produce the majority of the food found on the Earth. They are able to convert sunlight, the greatest source of energy outside the Earth, into usable energy. Plants also produce oxygen, which is necessary for animal life, and consume carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. Chlorophyll is a chemical that also is used to estimate the algal biomass found in lakes and streams.

Plants That Aren't Green

Some plant leaves have a different colors due to the carotenoids, which absorb light differently, creating yellow, red and orange colors. Some plants also contain anthocyanin, which makes plants red.

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