What Does Grass Look Like Under a Microscope?

Do you ever wonder what the grass looks like under a microscope? Is it true that you can see smiley faces when grass cells are magnified? Like any living thing made up of a cell, the structure of the grass is quite interesting and amazing when viewed under the microscope. You will be able to see different types of cells with other functions. With a microscope, it is possible to identify the cells and see how they are arranged. You can tell which are the spongy cells and the epidermal cells.

Different Types of Grass You Can Look Under the Microscope

Marram Grass Leaf Observation

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Things you will need

  • Marram Grass Blade
  • Tweezers
  • Slides
  • Microscope
  • Blade/Knife

Viewing the grass blade under the microscope, you will see the dark edge along the root is caused by a very short, orange-brown hair that grows only in the upper portion of the plant. This species can regrow its roots following defoliation if sufficient reserves are available in the soil (though not too much). As it matures, this grass takes on one of many shades and forms. It uncurls as it grows so that the folds no longer face the center. These folds help conserve water and withstand salt. It also prevents excessive evaporation.

The marram grass has tube-shaped light-filtering veins on each fold, which transport nutrients and water through the leaf. Animals avoid dining on the plant’s surface thorns for fear of being poisoned. Marram grass is a crucial dune stabilizer in British coastal areas since it is one of the most widely distributed grasses there.

Another observation point is the transverse section of the Marram grass leaf. At this point, you can see signs of adaptation to prevent water loss. It has a thick outer cuticle, and it is curled via the hinge cells to protect the inner epidermis. The stomata are also sunken into surfaces to keep the humidity high.

Xerophytic (Desert-Climate) Grasses

In observing the transverse section of the leaf blade of Xerophytic grasses, one will see adaptations similar to non-grass plants in the desert. Their structure is thinner and more needle-like. In addition, both sides of the grass leaf develop into different structures. The upper, adaxial surface holds the soft-green tissues and the Abaxial, or bottom, has sclerotic tissue.

Desert grasses normally roll in a manner that the softside remains inwards during the dry periods. It stays in a concave manner and keeps closed to protect moisture from evaporation. On the other hand, the outer, convex abaxial side works as a shield.

When it rains, desert grass resorts to a bimetallic strip. It is because the adaxial surface absorbs water, and it expands with the help of the hinge cells to keep the inner face open to the rainwater. It then works as the water absorption tissue. But when the dry period comes back, the grass leaves go back to their original state.

Oat and Wheat Grass Under the Microscope

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The first thing you will notice looking at an oat glass under 64x magnification is the amount of chloroplast in it. It is required to keep the grass flattened to see the cells more clearly. Otherwise, you will not make out most of the structure, and oat grass can dry out soon.

If you compare it to the wheat leaf, you can identify the cells that make up the famous smiley face. It is made from the phloem and xylem of the grass, which are bundle sheaths. These two parts are like tunnels where water and nutrients are transported.

But are there really ‘Smiley’ faces in a blade of grass?

A viral content showing an image that looks like a group of tiny “smiley faces” looking at the observer from under the microscope has been on the internet for years. But exactly what are these images show?

It was even featured in a meme continuously shared in social media circles since it was created in 2021. The meme came with a caption that reads – “This is what a blade of grass looks like under the microscope. Next time you go out for a walk, know that the grass is happy to see you!”

The source of the image can no longer be located by searching online, and you’d be able to find other images of grass under the microscope with similar features.

In 2015, an anonymous commenter discussed the trending image pointing to a similar image on a Science Stock photo website. The image comes with a caption that reads:

The Marram Grass Leaf under the Microscope:

This photo is a Light micrograph of a cross-section through a closed Marram grass leaf, Ammophila Arenaria. The deeply grooved leaf is thrown into folds (as seen here), and it uncurls when mature so that the folds do not face the center. The folds conserve water and withstand salt, and prevent excessive evaporation. Round vascular bundles are visible inside each fold, serving to transport food and water through the leaf. Spines on the surface discourage animals from eating the leaf. Marram grass is important in coastal ecology since it is one of the commonest grass species in Britain to stabilize dunes. Magnification x22 at 35mm size. 

According to Maria Morrow, Assistant Professor of Botany and Environmental Science, College of the Redwoods, the “smiley faces” are vascular bundles common in plants called monocots. These types of plants are composed only of one leaf, such as grasses.

Therefore, although the image does present the components of the real grass leaf cross-section when viewed under the microscope, it does not necessarily show any smiling faces. Describing such characteristics and claiming that the grass is happy to see you is a subjective call. Some grass images included in the Morrow article and observation would argue that the grass leaf is screaming at you!

Finally, the “smiley faces” seen in a blade of grass under the microscope are just an illusion. It is created by looking at a slice of the leaf’s round vascular bundle from above through the microscope lens.


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