As enthusiasts who enjoy native plants in natural habitats, we tend to focus on gross morphology— aspects of plant form that can be readily observed with the naked eye or with a hand lens. And there is plenty to see at the gross level. The Flora of Virginia contains 1,269 pages of keys and descriptions devoted to gross morphology of the commonwealth’s botanical treasures. Morphological diversity, however, does not stop at the magnifi cation limit of a hand lens. Light and electron microscopes open up whole new worlds of intricate structure for appreciation and study. And tiny structural details can illuminate and provide insight at much larger scales, such as whole-plant biology or ecology.
Copyright © 2015, Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Sempervirens (Winter 2015), 4-5.
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Hayden, W. John. "Little Things Reveal the Big Picture." Sempervirens, Winter 2015, 4-5.