- Education and Science
How Do Plants Know When to Grow?
Perhaps scientists and biologist and botanist have an explanation but philosophically and mechanically, I would like to understand the actual mechanism. It occurs to me most plant life and perennial flowers have an innate sense. Within a few days of each other, every Spring, they start to grow and sprout. How do they do it? It's not as if they have a built in clock/calendar.
- Mar. 2017
Here is my question. If plants are just made up of a bunch of cells. They have no central nerve system and no intelligence as we know it. How do they go into hibernation in the fall and spring back to life in the Spring. Is it merely a matter of temperature of their surroundings? or is there more to this?
On any given day, we see temperature varying up and down by a large degree. During the day, it is warmer by 30 or more degrees and in the evening, it drops down. On some days, here in the Northeast, the day temperature could reach as high as 70 and may drop down below freezing at night.
Is it simply a matter of numbers. Like a switch that turns on when the temperature reaches a threshold and shuts off when another lower threshold is reached. Or is there some "memory" involved and perhaps with a few warm days in a row that kicks up the growth directive?
How does the Sun play a role? We know plants and flowers follow the direction of the Sun. They tend to grow towards the light source or in the direction of the energy source. It may also be a multi-layer response that depends on both temperature and light source at a certain elevation that signals the start of Spring growth?
Another factor is moisture. How much water is in the soil. We know grass and plants grow better with a moist environment. In the Spring, we may have snow that melts due to higher temperature which seeps to the soil and the roots.
Some have suggest that plants have consciousness. It can sense stuff. Perhaps, it has the ability to communicate with each other. They can collectively arrive at a decision as to when it is the "right" time to grow. This would be hard to proof. In science, there is no mechanism where cells can communicate with other cells remotely. We only know of a few methods of communication either by sound waves, electromagnetic waves or light waves. Is there another way we haven't discovered as yet?
The start stop command cannot be turned on and off at will. In plants, there is energy expended when starting to grow. Once initiated, there is momentum. You cannot just stop it at will and then start again where you left off. For example, suppose a flower decided to start growing but a cold wave comes and now the flower is dead from the frost. It cannot start regrowing, or start from scratch when it warms again. The energy was spent and the plant has expired.
Therefore, it is critical to the survival of the plant to know when it is safe to start growIng. How does it do this?
A Weed Grows Out of Asphalt
Plants are wonderful and they bring us many joys. They seems to be well adapted to their environment. Even with big swings in temperature, in rainfall, and wind storms, they seems to survive most of the time. It seems like almost a miracle to me how they are able to do this with little fanfare. I guess it is one of the wonders of nature.
Some Related Info
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- How Do Trees Know When to Leaf Out in the Spring? | The Outside Story
Thankfully, most northern trees aren’t dead in winter. They’re dormant – very much alive but relatively inactive. They still burn energy maintaining life, but little goes on in the way…
- Plants have unexpected response to climate change | Science | AAAS
North American species respond in opposite way than researchers had predicted