Electric Pollen


Did you know that flowers carry an electric charge? So do bees.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have been investigating this amazing phenomenon.

Flowers are negatively charged, a charge they acquire from the atmosphere around them. On a sunny day, every meter of atmosphere from the ground upwards carries a charge of around 100 volts. Flowering plants draw from this charge, in the end themselves becoming slightly electrified to about 40 volts.

<img src="https://daisydukesgardens.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/covered_in_pumpkin_pollen_by_dalantech.jpg" alt="" title="Bee Covered in Pollen" width="735" height="438" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-1610"


Bees, on the other hand, are positively charged. Flying through the air at high speeds and bumping into dust particles along the way, a bee's tiny hairs become positively charged much the same way your socks become after shuffling along a carpet.


Flower in normal light, ultraviolet light and a representation of its electric fields.


When a bee lands on a flower it is an electric connection. The meeting of these two charges causes pollen to literally jump from the flower on to the bee. This static will keep pollen lodged safely onto the bee’s body until is rubbed off back at the hive or on to a flower of the opposite gender, resulting in a successful pollination.

This process is just another incredible addition to the pollination methods employed by flowers. Along with seasonal coincidence, color, pattern and fragrance, flowers use an electrical charge to convey critical information to bees.


A bee doing what it does best.

It is an important tool in identification, allowing bees to discern the shape of a flower by the electric charge outlining its petals. It can also notify a bee whether or not it is bearing pollen. When a bee lands on a flower, the charge of that flower spikes by about 25 millivolts and remains so for almost 2 minutes after a bee’s departure. A heighten electric state is a signal to bees that follow that the flower has just been visited and may not have as much pollen as expected.

To test the relationship between bees and the electrical charge of flowers, researchers created a laboratory meadow of fake flowers. These “flowers” were in fact plastic cups dotted at the bottom with either a sweet sugary solution or bitter quinine.


Bee pollinating a pear tree.
When bees were released among the flowers, they visited both the sugary and bitter flowers at an equal rate. However, when the researchers gave the sweet cups a slight electric charge, the bees began to differentiate between the sweet and bitter flowers with an 80% accuracy. Soon after the electric charge was disconnected, the bees lost their accuracy and began to visit both flowers once more at an equal rate.


Flowers sprayed with colored particles (color in box corresponds to colored particles) to reveal their electric field. Courtesy of National Geographic.

So far, bees are the only insect known to science capable of detecting electrical fields. A fascinating chapter in the evolutionary story of plant life and their main pollinators, researchers at the University of Bristol are continuing their studies to deepen our understanding of this marvel of nature.



It may be hard to tell, but this plant is nomming on some delicious light


An interesting fact about plants: they eat light.

Plant’s use light as our bodies use food, converting it into carbohydrates, sugars and more in order to fuel their existence.

Animal and plant cells are relatively similar in makeup. Plant cells however contain a few extra cell organs, called organelles, in order to facilitate the conversion of light into a food source.


Courtesy of http://srialls.blogspot.de/


These organelles are called chloroplasts. They are photo-reactive centers which contain chlorophyll, the main pigment along with carotenes and xanthophylls, used to absorb photons (particles of light).

Chlorophyll is most adept absorbing blue light, followed by red. Green spectrums are poorly absorbed and thus reflected, giving plant life a general greenish hue.


Just bouncing off the un-absorbable green


Each plant cell contains up to 100 chloroplasts, translating to approximately 8 million of these photo-sensitive organs per square centimeter of leaf, making it comparable to a living solar panel. Since all green parts of a plant contain chlorophyll, all these parts are capable of harvesting light although leaf tissue remains the most proficient at this process.


Imagine this, but on a leaf and multiplied by a million and more


For basic photosynthesis, 3 components are needed: photons (light), carbon dioxide and water.

When carbon dioxide, water and light are present, photosynthesis produces carbohydrates for the plant and releases oxygen as a by-product. The basic equation for photosynthesis is as follows:



Basic, generalized photosynthesis is a two step process.

The first step involves water and light. When light hits a pigment of chlorophyll, the chlorophyll absorbs a light particle and loses an electron. This loose electron is used by other parts of the chloroplast to convert the absorbed photon into two forms of chemical energy, ATP and NADP.

It is also used to split water (two hydrogen ions plus one oxygen ion, H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, stealing its hydrogen ions to later produce carbohydrate sugar and releasing the oxygen (which is of no use to the plant) into the atmosphere.



In the second step, a loose hydrogen ion bonds with the NADP to form NADPH. Carbon dioxide is absorbed through microscopic openings in a leaf called stomata and then captured by a plant enzyme called RuBisCo. The carbon dioxide is fixated in the plant cell using ATP and NADPH energy.

This cycle is called the Calvin cycle and produces carbohydrates and glucose for the plant to nourish itself as well as reserving some ATP and NADPH to form new RuBisCo and other plant molecules in order to repeat this process continually.



This is why it is so important to remember, your plants always needs two things: LIGHT and WATER. Without these very simple elements, your plant cannot produce food for itself and, in conjunction with poor environmental conditions, with eventually die.


Remember to water the plants for the love of god


The process of photosynthesis is simply amazing, the fact that a living organism can create food for itself through the consumption of light. What is even more amazing is that this reaction is responsible for nearly all oxygen present on earth. That means no plant life equals no oxygen which in turn equals no us!


We need both land and marine plants to survive


We can thank our botanical based friends for keeping us alive by being good stewards of the earth and by respecting and promoting green spaces in our cities and homes. Just remember to water and provide an ample amount of light for your plants and you are sure to have a healthier, peaceful and oxygenated home.


Hugging trees actually feels awesome

Evergreen Needle Tea

Winter still rages


As winter dredges on, those of us that haven’t yet been affected by the flu virus may soon find it their turn to be laid up and ill. If you have the chance however, the ill effect a virus has can be shortened and soothed by a few home remedies, namely tea-drinking.

While drinking hot liquids when sick can only do one good, not all teas are equally potent in medicinal value. If you are only looking to relax, most teas including fennel, chamomile and mint will provide a comforting dose of warmth and help induce a nap.


Mint tea, nothing like a fresh cup of it


When gardens are silenced and put to sleep by snow, it is easy to forget that there are still many ways to heal one’s self with home plant remedies. Do not forget that even in winter, there are still many wild remedies available, particularly in evergreen trees.


A typical Berlin park in winter, notice the needle-bearing evergreens to the left behind the bridge ready to be ID’d and made into tea


For a winter cold or flu, there are four trees in specific that can not only provide much needed relief for any cold or flu but a whopping dose of wild, fresh and potent vitamin C.These trees are Pine, Fir, Spruce and Cedar. All can be found growing throughout Berlin.

You do not need to trudge to the outskirts of town and into the forest to find the trees mentioned above. They are relatively prolific throughout Berlin and to find them means simply take a walk through Tiergarten, Treptow Park, Volkspark Friedrichshain, Hasenheide, any cemetery near you or even a neighboring hof. The best places to harvest any wild food is in areas with less exposure to pollution and away from roadways.




Pine, Fir and Spruce, we know these are needle- and cone-bearing, evergreen trees.

Their main differences are:

Needles that are: Short and square shaped.
Spruce needles always grow: individually from the branch.

Needles that are: Long, glossy and thread-like.
Pine needles always grow: in clusters of at least 2 up to 8.

Needles that are: Short, flat, with a stipe on the bottom.
Fir needles always grow: individually from the branch, in a spiral from the tip.


Spruce, right, Pine, middle, and Fir, Left


Cedar (Thuja Plicata) is easy to tell apart from the above trees because its leaves resemble scales rather than needles. Its branches have a very distinct smell and bark should be papery, easy to peel off in long strips and reddish in color. The top of a cedar tree often nods. It’s branches grow slightly upward and may droop at the tips. Usually the branches are quite spread out.


Western Red Cedar is very easy to identify


The only tree to avoid is Yew (Taxus). It is poisonous but easy to identify through observing its bark, berries and needles. Yew bark is red to purple, flaking and thin. They also have bright red, cup shaped berries that persist through winter.

Needles that are: Short, flat, and a deep, dark green with a white, ridged underside.
Yew needles always grow: In two rows, parallel to each other and flat.


Yew’s bark is flaky and its needles flat, two-ranked and relatively soft


If you are worried that you will not able to positively distinguish a yew from other needle bearing trees, stick to looking only for cedar and pine trees as they are the two most distinct evergreen trees and are impossible to confuse with yew.




If you find one evergreen or the other, you could stop your quest, satisfied, and return home for tea. You could also take a moment to see which is which and even compare tastes as each has a slightly different flavor from the other.

Once you have positively identified your evergreen, you can either pick off clusters of needles or find a relatively small branch, trace it back to its main branch and remove it with clippers. If you decide to prune a branch off, cut it all the way back to the main branch, leaving no stump, so that the main branch can effectively heal.

When you have your small branch or cluster of needles back at home, separate the needles from the branch and each other. Make sure to remove any bark that is attached.

Rinse the needles under cold water and remove the papery sheath that binds them together, if present.


Nice fresh cup of Pine needle tea


For pine needle tea

Bring a quart of water to a boil. Once the water has been brought to a boil, shut off the burner and place pine needles in the pot to steep for 10 minutes.

For spruce, fir and cedar tea

Let the needles boil in a quart of water for 10 minutes.

Stain all of the above teas when ready to drink to avoid getting poked in the face.

For those with stuffed noses or bronchial issues when sick, the steam from boiled pine, fir, spruce or cedar can have great effects. Coarsely chop the softer baby branches with needles and toss into a pot. Bring to a rolling boil. After shutting off the heat, cover your head with a towel and place over the cooling water. Inhale the steam vapors.


Get up in it


The above teas are extremely potent medicines. You probably want to limit yourself to 2 large mugfuls per day, not drinking needle tea for longer than one week straight (you will not die, you just may have a very upset stomach). You will be better by then at any rate!

Sweeten the teas with natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or stevia.

Extra special pine needle tea

For a special treat, you can also make the following pine needle tea:

Two handfuls pine needles
Two pieces cinnamon bark
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp orange peel

Bring to a boil in 2 liters of water and let boil for 10 minutes. Sweeten with desired sweetener.


Spruce needle tea


A Scot’s Pine (Pinus Sylvestrus) is just one of the few pines native to Europe


Silver Fir (Abies Alba) is what we know as the traditional christmas tree


Norway Spruce (Picea Abies) is so common in Europe is is often just referred to as European Spruce


Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata) is native to North America but because of modern horticulture can be found spread through out Berlin


Get well soon!

As Pretty as a Bed of Moss

What would a forest be without moss?


Few can argue, there is hardly a thing prettier than a soft bed of moss. Green, lush, delicate, it’s easy to conjure the touch and feel of moss against ones fingers. There is just something whimsical and melancholic about it.


If I lived in the forest, I’d be taking a nice little nap right about there


Much like their shade and water-loving forest companions, fungi and ferns, mosses propagate through spore dispersal. The times you have seen moss covering the side of a tree, rolling over the forest floor or perched upon stone, it isn’t always flat and plush. The occasions we see moss plump and leafy, it is in the gametophyte stage of its life cycle. Mosses reproduce sexually (although it is also capable of asexual reproduction i.e.. when smaller parts of itself are broken off and relocated), meaning there is both male and female moss. A male gametophyte will produce male gametes, sperm, and a female gametophyte will produce eggs. A leafy green moss is preparing itself for reproduction.


This patch of moss is just raring to go


Moss thrive in wet, damp conditions for more than a few reasons. One of these is that moss lacks a vascular system. Picking up a clump of moss and turning it over, you may notice there is very little in the way of a root system. The small, thread-like roots called rhizoids help moss cling to surfaces and do absorb some water but scarcely enough. It is for this reason that a clump of moss is very much like a sponge. With very small roots and no vascular system, the entire body of a moss is responsible for water collection and absorption. In the safety of shade and moisture, moss has found a place where it can use this handicap to thrive.


Somebody looks happy, must be getting enough water!


A second reason for moss’s water-loving nature: water plays a crucial part in its reproductive cycle. When a male gametophyte’s sperm are ready for dispersion it will release these gametes into the raindrops that fall upon it. Once the sperm are contained in a drop of water, it will splash onto the neighboring female moss, fertilizing them. When the female gametophyte has been fertilized, it is now in sporophyte generation.


An interesting use of moss to creating living furniture


This is where moss changes from its plush, leafy state. Little nodding hoods rise out of moss patches, suspended by a single filament. This bobbing hood is called a capsule, protected by a calyptra. The capsule is the mature sporophyte, containing thousands of ripened spores. Once the calyptra is shed, the capsule will expand and contract in response to fluctuating moisture levels in its surroundings, releasing its spores in the meantime.


Moss in sporophyte generation


After all its spores have been released, the little hood will brown and dry, eventually falling off. Following this last step, the reproduction cycle will start anew!


Moss graffiti made by cutting and pasting pieces of moss or cutting a pattern out of sheet moss


Moss is indispensable for a shaded garden. If you find yourself in a north facing home or without much sun, try growing moss on a stone or a terra-cotta pot. If you have a shady windowsill, you could cover the outer ledge with moss to create an eccentric lookout.


Moss on a rock is very zen


To grow moss on pottery or stone

You will need…

Moss that you have found outside, growing on top of soil or in a lawn
2 cups Buttermilk and
a Blender

Mix the moss and buttermilk in a blender until you achieve a milkshake-like consistency.

Paint this mixture on your chosen pot or stone. Mist it twice daily for 6 weeks, ensuring it is kept out of direct sunlight. If you let it dry out, you will have to start over again.


Lovely moss windowsill


To grow moss on an outside ledge

You can used the recipe above and paint it on a windowsill or, if you would like a cushionier, plusher moss selection, take a shallow gardening tray, typically used for seed progation and fix it to your windowsill with glue, screws or otherwise.

Fill it will a thin layer of potting soil and then plant your mosses, making sure to water them daily until established. Voila, a pretty and mystical windowsill!

Once again, make sure your mosses are not left to dry out. Its hard to worry about overwatering, since moss is such a profound water consumer.


If you happen to find a parched or dried out patch of moss

You can always resuscitate it. Simply let it soak in water, then let it dry out completely and then soak and allow to dry out once more. Place it in a humid and shady place and it should come back to life in a few weeks.

For more moss related projects, visit our post on terrarium gardening.


Words that make you sound cool:

Sporophyte ˈspôrəˌfīt The stage of a plant life cycle that produces spores, alternating with the gametophyte stage.

Gardens in Glass: Terrariums

I have to say, writing this post got me a little excited. Terrariums have to be one of the most curious tangents of indoor gardening. There are just so many options, so many ways to be creative when it comes to terrarium gardening, it is impossible not to daydream over a miniature world enclosed in glass.


Impossible not to fawn over an amazing bottled garden.


Terrariums were invented in the late 19th century when gardening aficionado Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward noticed a fern sprout inside of a corked bottle in which he had placed a hibernating chrysalis. Terrariums, or Wardian cases as they were called, quickly shot to craft of the year in Victorian England but, after time, became a bygone novelty, only to make a massive come back in the 1970s.


Terrariums were the project of the decade circa 1970.


Besides being absolutely charming, terrariums are self-sustaining, which means little to no maintenance, and can be made in less than an hour. Terrariums require only in-direct light, which is fantastic for homes without much sun exposure.


No south facing windows for terrariums, which is great cause most of us don’t have those anyways.


The first step to making a terrarium is choosing a container. Let your imagination run wild! A terrarium can be made from literally any clear glass or plastic container regardless of size, shape or dimension. You could even make a terrarium from something as small as a apothecary bottle. A terrarium can thrive in a cookie jar, wine bottle, decanter, canning jar, crystal flask, goldfish bowl, vase, or a lightbulb. Go to a Trödelmarkt near you and begin to visualize that antique crystal home to a tiny lost garden.


Once you learn how to do one terrarium, you will soon be a pro.


After you have choosen a container, you will need to lay down an ideal ground for your plants to place their roots. The layers that will fill the bottom of your terrarium will be made up of pebbles, moss, activated charcoal and soil. If you decide on a succulent terrarium, make sure to pick up sand as well. All of the components mentioned above can be found at Obi. You can find moss and potting soil in the gardening department and then navigate to the pet/aquarium department for charcoal and a selection of pebbles.


Terrariums can be made out of just about anything, even an old coffee pot.


If you can’t fit your hand into the container or have decided on a narrow-necked vase or bottle to house your terrarium:

Make sure to pick up a pair of long-nosed tweezers or chopsticks that can reach well into the vase or bottle as you will be using these to guide your plants in.

You will also need a wire coat hanger to use as a tamper.

And something to fold into a funnel to get your soil and pebbles into the container without making a huge mess.


A pinecone feature, left. Cacti and succulent terrariums, right.


For any terrarium regardless of size or make, create your ground layer with the above components as follows:

Pebble layer
Minimum one pebble thick for the smallest containers. This layer should a minimum of half an inch thick for regular sized containers, although it can be thicker depending on your desired aesthetic.

Moss layer (preferred but can be optional if you cannot find moss)
Add a layer of moss on top of the pebbles to keep the charcoal and soil from mixing into them. It also holds water and helps keep the terrarium moist.

Charcoal layer
A thin layer of charcoal. This keeps the soil fresh and filters the air within the terrarium.

Soil layer – Potting soil
Minimum one centimeter for the smallest containers. This layer should be minimum one inch thick for normal sized containers, although you can have as much soil as you like, again depending on your desired aesthetic. Where you plants will actually be potted into.

Sand layer – 75% sand, 25% potting soil (For succulent terrariums only)
Minimum one centimeter for the smallest containers. This layer should be minimum one inch thick for normal sized containers, although you can have as much soil as you like, again depending on your desired aesthetic. Where you plants will actually be potted into.


Let the creativity flow.


Pebble, moss, charcoal, soil. That is all you need! Repeat this formula in any glass container, adjusting the amount accordingly to the workable space within the terrarium.


Fishbowls are a good place to start since they are so easy to plant.


Finally, your plants. I have seen in the gardening department at Obi a section with baby tropicals for 99 cents each. Mix and match these little plants, in groups of 3 and up. Try to envision them all together, with contrasting colors, leaf size and shape. Get creative with your terrarium plants choosing some plants interesting for foliage and others for ground cover. Mix in tropicals with lucky bamboo, ferns, mosses and lichens. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can always order from internet nurseries.





A ground layer is illustrated clearly in the center jar, although you layers needn’t be that thick.


To pot your plants, simply place them in the soil as you would any plant. If you have a narrow-necked bottle or vase, use one end of your coat hanger to make a divot in the soil for your plant to go. Next, guide your plant though the neck of your container with chopsticks or tweezers. Once you have your plant sitting where you like, bend one end of the coat hanger into a small, flat circle that can pass through the vase or bottle neck to push the soil around the plant and tamp it down.

Lastly, water your plants. Only water enough to slightly dampen the soil. Then you can spritz the plants lightly with a spray bottle. Spritz your plants whenever you want but only water when absolutely necessary, most likely once a month.


Plants survive well inside a light bulb, transforming it into a quirky miniature garden.


If you cork your container, make sure you open it and allow it dry out once a month. This will rid of condensation build-up and prevent bacteria or mold from taking over.

Place your terrarium out of direct sun. Your terrarium still needs light, so households with no windows or light are not suitable. But north facing window sills are perfect for moss, lichen and fern terrariums and a well lit room, away from the window is perfect for any other kind.

As a final touch, and maybe the best part, decorate your terrarium. Use different colored and textured sand on top of the soil for an interesting look, pebbles, stones, marbles, pieces of broken glass, drift wood, shells, figurines, found objects, and knick knacks of unique interest. The sky is the limit, you are creating a weird and wonderful indoor world for plants to live, maybe with a story, theme or design interest in mind.


Wear a terrarium around your neck as a living necklace.


Closed vs. open terrariums

You can cap your terrarium if you wish, to further reduce its watering needs. Plants can survive like this indefinitely, as long as they are placed in a warm spot, away from direct light and are kept moist but not wet. I have even seen terrariums in a tiny bottle and worn as a necklace! Open terrariums are standard because it is easier to access the plants and condensation does not build up. Succulent terrariums must always be open as they cannot handle too much humidity.


Living stones nestled in sand.


More terrarium resources:




How to Remember to Water Your Plants

I am as guilty as anyone with forgetting to water my houseplants. I could be called lazy, forgetful, undisciplined maybe?


I’ll just set this one to fry


The two things absolutely crucial to keep tropicals alive, healthy, and beautiful are LIGHT and WATER.

If you place your plant in a location that provides it with its ideal amount of light and pair this with an understanding of its water necessities, you will have long-lasting, non-crispy and rot-free plants that thrive in your indoor environment.

The best thing to do after buying a houseplant is to take a moment to look online and see how much water your plant needs. If there are no care instructions on the label, you might be surprised after researching to find your plant prefers wet soil all the time or to dry out between waterings, maybe it needs no water at all.


The saddest cactus in the world. A Spider Plant trying after too much water and not enough light.


Knowing this information and remembering to water is a golden ticket to a home made beautiful with houseplants.


Put a tray or reservoir under you plants.


If you keep a plant tray under a pot, any water that passes through the soil can be absorbed later. If the plant is very water demanding, you can let the reservoir become full. However, if the tray has water left in it after two days, dump it out to prevent any chance of root rot. For a pebble tray, get a large tray and fill it with halfway with pebbles. Place the plant pot on the pebbles and continue to fill. This can act as a reservoir of water in times of need, ensuring the plant isn’t sitting in stagnant water and also providing much needed humidity.


Pebble trays look great and serve a purpose, left. Orchids on a slated tray for humidity, right.


Keep a water reservoir in your living area.


Wherever you keep plants, keep a container that you can get water from in a corner or protected area. This could take the form of a filled watering can set beside a plant to be used when needed or a spray bottle. If your house is large enough and your plants numerous, you could have a bucket with a cup or watering can hid behind a gathering of plants or a floor plant pot where it won’t be disturbed.


It can’t hurt to keep a loaded watering can. Owl figurines to put into pots and fill with water, right.


Keep your plants in the kitchen or bathroom.


Light permitting, keep your plants in the kitchen or bathroom. If plants are near a water source, you will find it incredibly easy to water. Keep a cup beside the plants so that you can simply put it under a faucet and water.


If you have your plants by a window and a faucet, its not too far from the tap.


Use upside down wine or beer bottles and cut plastic bottles.


If you fill a wine or beer bottle with water and place it in the soil surrounding your plant, the water will leak out on its own when the plant needs it. Make sure you don’t place it into the root ball or you may harm your plants roots. A plastic bottle cut in half and filled with water can fulfill the same purpose (albeit with less class).


A wine or beer bottle making a fine self-irrigation system.


Use technology.


Koubachi is a free iTunes App that you can download to your phone to remind you when to water. After you pick your plants from a database, you will be notified to water according to a schedule individual to each plant.


Put your plants in the shower.


If you have time, you can place all of your houseplants that like a thorough watering together in the shower, turn the water to just below room temperature and leave them for 5 minutes. If you have a shower head with a hose, you can water them individually and even dust the leaves.


Plants taking a bath and a shower.


Water your plants on the same day of every week, at the same time.


Make a space in your life to water your plants. Water them on a certain day, at a time you know you will always have free, every week. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you.


Setting aside time for your plants is essential.


Enjoy watering your houseplants.


The number one way to remember to water your houseplants is to enjoy doing it. Do it while you are tidying your house, drinking a cup of tea or after breakfast. Maybe you do it to have a few moments per day of solitude. It can be a time of reflection, happiness through relaxation, and peace.


Enjoy watering your plants with a cup of tea


Indoor ferns and palms need the most water. They need to have their soil moist at all of the time and/or to be sprayed with a misting spray bottle. Orchids like to sit in a wet cup with soil, which is how you will find them potted from the garden center. Monstera and Philodendron like lots of water and it is the key to growing them quickly and very large. Cacti and succulents are very well known for their low water requirements but also ZZ plant and Sanseveria need only a small cup of water once a month. A Yucca’s leaves will yellow in response to being overly watered and prefers to be dry as well. You can spritz these plants whenever you want however to clean their leaves.


Hang out with your houseplants. Don’t be afraid to poke the soil to see if it needs water


The majority of houseplants, those that need frequent watering but also to dry out a little between, just need to have their soil touched to determine moisture level and if watering is necessary.

When a plant is pulling away from the sides of the pot, it is due for a watering. Letting a plant dry out and then subsequently over-watering it can be detrimental. If at all possible it is best to water your plant at regular intervals, making sure the soil is always just slightly spongy to the touch.



Happy watering!

Into the Light

Tomato seedlings lean towards the light.

Plants will bend themselves outside of their natural growth habit to reach into light. A plant on a windowsill turns to face the sun, letting you know its not receiving enough of it.

This phenomenon is known as phototropism. It demonstrates how perfectly necessary it is for plants to receive light and in the right amount. Although plants may vary in their light requirements, all need to consume light to survive.

Sometimes a room is filled with so much light, it doesn’t matter too much where you place a plant. But if your space is dimly-lit by the sun or only receives sunlight at certain periods of the day, you may find yourself with a lop-sided houseplant begging for light.


Dandelions face the sun from under fallen leaves.


Having a lop-sided plant does not necessarily effect its ability to survive. However it can make a plant less aesthetically pleasing for us, since it will prefer to look out the window instead of into our living space. The side of the plant not exposed to light may have its leaves yellow and eventually drop as well.

A plant does not have a brain, nor does it have a nervous system. But it does have hormones and these hormones control the intricate workings of plant life. In this case, the hormone auxin is responsible for helping plants lean towards light.

In the tip of every shoot and root, as well as under woody fiber and bark, is the meristem tissue. This is the only place plant cells divide and thus the only place from which a plant truly grows. It is also where auxin is produced.


Meristematic growth in shoots, roots and cambium.


Auxin flows from these centers to other parts of the plant, reacting to the presence of sunlight and moving away from it. If you see a plant growing directly upwards, its meristematic areas are receiving a balanced amount of light and its auxins are moving proportionately on all sides downward. In the absence of balanced light, auxins will soon distribute unevenly, not only away from the light but accumulating on the shaded side of a plant.

Where the auxin accumulates, a plant’s cells will drop in pH and acidify. It is only in this acidic environment that the affected cell’s hydrogen bonds are disrupted and the enzyme expansin can begin to break down the cell walls within the stem.


Auxin’s role in phototropism.


As the cells weaken, they swell and elongate, causing the stem to bend. When the tip of the stem and its meristematic tissue begin to receive balanced light once again, the stem will cease to bend and resume growing straight, remaining forever in its contorted position.

How a plant moves towards the sun is certainly curious. In one sense, it seems almost a conscious reaction that a plant would move shaded parts of itself into light so that it can continue to photosynthesize to its full potential. At the same time, however, it remains entirely unconscious as it is natural for auxins to move towards where there is the least amount of light regardless.


An indoor fig gives its best face to the light.


Phototropism is very pronounced in winter, when days are shorter and houseplants struggle to get as much sun as they need. As a simple solution, turn your plant once per month so that all side receive light thought the winter season. This can be done anytime of the year of course when in a space with low-light.


Tropicals grow straight as an arrow under a fluorescent light hung above.


If interested, you could also use filtered lights to keep your plants growing straight. Interestingly enough, certain parts of a plant will grow depending on the wavelength of light it receives. While natural sunlight contains a complete spectrum of light, plants are stimulated most by red and blue light. Blue light corresponds with bushy, vegetative growth while red light can promote flowering.

Plant tips respond especially to blue light, the same provided by fluorescent lights and blue LED lights. As a solution, a blue LED light or cool white fluorescent could be placed on the other side of a room in order to balance natural light from a window during daylight hours.



Words that make you sound cool:
Phototropism ˌfōtəˈtrōpizəm the process by which plants grow towards light.