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Betalain  [ Biochemistry - Botany ]
Synonym: Betacyanin

Dictionary of botanic terminology - index of names

  The betalains are plants  pigments that are yellow, orange, pink, red and purple in colour.  
Unlike the other three main classes of plant pigments (chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids ), betalains have a limited distribution, they  get their name from the red beets (the genus Beta in the Chenopodiaceae), which are red in colour due to the presence of the betalain,  Certain betalains are responsible for the red to purple colour of cacti stems and prickly pear pads, particularly when under stress.  

Most red colouration in plants is due to carotenoids and flavonoids. The red colour of most fruit and vegetables, such as strawberries and grapes is due to anthocyanins, which are in the flavonoid class of pigments.

Betalain are instead restricted exclusively to plants of the order Caryophyllales the Carnations order (e.g. in the family Cactaceae, Aizoaceae, Portulacaceae, Amaranthaceae etc…) which differ by the presence of betalain and the absence of anthocyanin as pigments. This unusual pigments are not found in any other plants. No currently accepted plant family contains both anthocyanin and betalain producers.





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