MadSci Network: Botany

Re: What gives bread mold its blue green color if there is no chlorophyll?

Date: Fri Apr 30 09:42:51 2004
Posted By: Michael Curtis, MSES, President, CERL Environmental Consultants
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1082936156.Bt

Hey Derek, Thanks for the interesting question!

As you indicated, the blue/green mold that is commonly found on bread 
(Penicillium) has no chlorophyll - nor do any of the other fungi (molds).  
The color produced by fungi is a function of a variety of chemicals 
produced either as waste, cellular metabolites, digestive agents (used to 
break down their food source such as plants or other types of materials) 
or even to create a toxic environment for other fungi (their equivelent of 
chemical warfare).  These chemicals can produce a wide variety of colors, 
depending on the genus and species, ranging from very dark browns (looks 
like black to the naked eye) through the color spectrum of various shades 
of green, blue, red, orange, yellow, etc. (note: white molds are not 
really white but 'clear' or colorless).  When these chemicals are 
deposited outside the cell they can also produce staining of the material 
they are growing on and in some cases have been used to produce dyes.  

Thanks for the interesting question and best of luck in school!

Mike C.

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