Nail plants are cute, but the ones in your yard could soon be the new ‘tattooed’ plants, thanks to a new technique that lets them grow on even the smallest surfaces.
Nail plants have long been considered ‘natural’ or ‘natural beauty’ because they are part of nature, and because they don’t need much attention, said Stephanie Schubert, a graduate student in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of the new study.
But the beauty of nail plants has long been disputed, because they can grow anywhere on the plant.
“The main issue is they don,t seem to have any kind of root system, and they’re hard to get to,” Schuert said.
Instead, the researchers developed a method to help nail plants create their own natural structures.
Using a technique called photo-hydrogenation, they could grow a small set of nail plant stems that are connected by thin strands of carbon nanotubes (a type of carbon-based molecule) that are used to form a structure called a “nail ring.”
Nail rings are just as easy to grow, and can be grown in just a few hours.
The scientists even developed a way to attach the ends of the nail rings to the plant itself.
This method allows the plant to grow on surfaces that are small enough to be used as a cutting tool, or for cutting out nails, she said.
The new method has also been used to grow tiny, curved, spiral, and other shapes, and could help nail plant designers, she added.
Schubert said this research could also be applied to other natural beauty products.
“For example, we can see that the plant has been used as an indicator of the environment,” she said, noting that the use of nail rings has been shown to be an effective indicator of biodiversity.
Schutts research was published online Jan. 26 in the journal PLOS ONE.