Physiologically speaking of course….
As humans we can see a limited assortment of light wavelengths, known as the visible spectrum of light, a.k.a. colours. (Other wavelengths we cannot see include UV rays, X rays or infrared). Why is it that we can differentiate colours? Its likely to do with adaptation to the environment. Plants and animals have evolved different physiological responses to colours, so it’s important to discriminate between them.
As mammals we have biological clocks, or circadian rhythms that respond to light. Dark or blue light set off signalling mechanisms, which ultimately regulate the melatonin levels in our system. Melatonin is a hormone which can induce sleep, if at sufficiently high levels in our system. (Hence your doctor prescribing you melatonin if you have trouble sleeping at night. Suffice to say countless grad students are probably on this stuff right now).
Plants also have a light-sensing system, which can respond to different times of day and seasonal changes. This can determine fruit maturation and changing colour in the leaves etc. For plants, blue light has a revitalizing (instead of drowsy) effect. If you’ve ever left your plants without light for too long, they go yellow. Irradiate them with a little blue, and the green will return within a couple of days.
Interestingly, plants and animals have the same type of photoreceptors to blue light, called Cryptochromes (CRYs), even though they elicit a different response. CRYs initiate the light response, analogous to a molecular domino effect. The pigments bind specialized proteins that in turn, regulate transcription factors that can switch on the light response genes involved in development. Termed as photomorphogenesis, light dependent changes in development can include initiation of flowering, or extension of roots in germinating seeds.
Currently, characterizing the molecular interactions in plant blue-light/CRY1 response seems to be a hot topic. Two highly similar articles were just published in Genes & Development, which was drawn to my attention by Eva (cheers). They were produced by two different research crews, using virtually the same methods to similar results. It’s not by total coincidence either. Characterizing molecular interactions in plants involve the same gold standard biochemical and genetic assays (i.e. transgenic plants, yeast hybrid systems, loss-of-function mutants etc.)
(Photoreceptors = light absorbing molecules or pigments.)