What makes a TickleMe Plant move and close its leaves when I Tickle It?
I believe you are referring to the Mimosa pudica or in "Makahiya" as we call it in the Philippines. The term "makahiya" means sensitive or shy.
The roses have thorns to protect it from some insects that will eat at its leaves, this is the same with the "tickle me" plant you were referring to. It closes as a defense mechanism on insects that may eat on its leaves.
The leaves of this plant has a characteristic in its cell components that makes it move right before your eyes when touched.
I found this information in The TickleMe Plant Book (the main source of information my students use for sciecne projects and care of this plant).
The main reason that theTickleMe Plant moves in response to being tickled is because of the loss of turgor pressure in some of the plant cells. Turgor pressure is the force of the water and plant cell contents against the inside wall of the plant cell. This turgor pressure gives the plant the ability to stand up straight without wilting. When a leaf is tickled, an electrical signal goes through the plant cells. This electrical signal causes chemicals in the plant to have water move out of some of the plant's cells in the lower part of the pulvinus and go into spaces between those cells. When water moves out of some of the cells, the turgor pressure is reduced and this causes the leaflets and stalks to wilt. This wilting causes some of the amazing movements of this plant. Scientists call the reaction of the TickleMe Plant to touch or being tickled, "Thigmonasty." Not all scientists agree as to exactly why or how the TickleMe Plant moves when tickled.
The leaves close under various other stimuli, such as touching, warming, blowing, or shaking. These types of movements have been termed seismonastic movements. The movement occurs when specific regions of cells lose turgor pressure, which is the force that is applied onto the cell wall by water within the cell vacuoles and other cell contents. When the plant is disturbed, specific regions on the stems are stimulated to release chemicals including potassium ions which force water out of the cell vacuoles and the water diffuses out of the cells, producing a loss of cell pressure and cell collapse; this differential turgidity between different regions of cells results in the closing of the leaflets and the collapse of the leaf petiole. This characteristic is quite common within the Mimosoideae subfamily of the legume family, Fabaceae. The stimulus can also be transmitted to neighboring leaves. It is not known exactly why Mimosa pudica evolved this trait, but many scientists think that the plant uses its ability to shrink as a defense from predators. Animals may be afraid of a fast moving plant and would rather eat a less active one. Another possible explanation is that the sudden movement dislodges harmful insects.
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