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We finally know why blueberries are blue

Published Feb 8th, 2024 6:46PM EST
Blueberries in wicker basket on old table with back light.
Image: Milan/Adobe

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Why are Blueberries blue? That question might seem crazy, but stick with me for a minute. See, scientists have spent the past several years trying to understand why the beloved blue fruit appears the way it does. That’s because blueberries, despite their name and appearance, actually have a dark red pigment that covers most of their skin.

It’s this pigment that has led to so much confusion in the scientific community. There is so much confusion, in fact, that a new study detailing the reason that blueberries appear blue was recently published in Science Advances. Not only does this study teach us more about the fruit, but it also helps us better understand how our body perceives various colors.

The blue coloring in blueberries appears to come from a layer of wax that surrounds the entire berry. It’s this wax layer that helps attribute the blue color that we see when we look at blueberries. That’s because the wax that surrounds their skin scatters blue and ultraviolet (UV) light while absorbing other colors of light.

Dark chocolate stack and fresh organic blueberries on wooden table.
Dark chocolate and fresh organic blueberries on a wooden table. Image source: Natalie Barth/Adobe

It’s this scattering that causes blueberries to appear blue to the human eye. But, you might be asking yourself, why would scientists even contemplate this particular mystery? Well, it all comes from the fact that when squished, blueberries don’t actually give off any blue juice.

Further, the color blue is actually very rare in nature, with fewer than ten plants believed to actually showcase the common color. This is partially because there isn’t actually a true blue pigment in the natural world. Instead, the pigment relies on other tricks to appear the way it does.

But, with this new research, scientists finally understand why blueberries are blue and not actually red like their skin and juice suggest they should appear. It’s a bit mind-boggling to think about, but it’s also really interesting because it showcases just how much light and the scattering of specific colors of light can change how we interpret the world around us, like when a blue moon fills the sky.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.