In his series Show Me the Carbon, environmentalist and photographer Robert Dash transforms the benign plant cell into a sinister scene out of a vintage horror film.

Willow | (Robert Dash)

But these aren't creatures from the Black Lagoon. Dash's subjects are stomata — plant pores that take carbon dioxide in and push oxygen and water out. Though his subjects are barely a fraction of the size of a pinhead, they pack a world of wonder.

"The intricacy and beauty of these stomata fascinated me the first moment I saw them," Dash says in an email. "It was like jumping into a muddy lake with a mask and snorkel and discovering that I was at the Great Barrier Reef. Totally unexpected."

Eucalyptus | (Robert Dash)

Poplar | (Robert Dash)

Dash uses a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to produce the micrographs. But first he must prepare the plant specimen — stems, leaves, and flowers that are no larger than a grain of rice — through an elaborate process that involves drying them out and coating them with a light mist of gold or palladium so that they conduct electricity. "Once in the SEM," Dash says, "it is not light but a beam of electrons which scans the sample and creates an image."

Dash admits he's drawn to the images that suggest eyes and mouths. "These symbolize an intelligence and cleverness of a significant life form that we interact with daily, but know so little about," he says. "I'm fascinated by the intelligence of plants."

Below, take a tour through Dash's dark depiction of molecular plant life.

Horsetail | (Robert Dash)

Salal | (Robert Dash)

Camas anther | (Robert Dash)

Red maple | (Robert Dash)

Eucalyptus | (Robert Dash)

Horsetail | (Robert Dash)

Striped maple | (Robert Dash)

Oregon grape | (Robert Dash)

**To see more of Robert Dash's work, please visit his website.**