En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
12 ratings

Thursday - June 09, 2005

From: toronto, NV
Region: Select Region
Topic: General Botany
Title: Smarty Plants on cell elongation
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Why do plants grow faster in the dark?

ANSWER:

In a strict sense, plants do not grow faster in the dark; they grow slower. However, plants seem to grow faster in insufficient light due to rapid cell elongation. In other words, they don't grow faster, they simply stretch. It is important to know that green plants really only grow as a result of photosynthetic processes. Without light photosynthesis ceases and plant tissue develop the characteristic, low-light induced sickly green or white coloration.

Rapid elongation of plant cells in low-light conditions is an emergency response on the part of the plant to return its plant tissues to the light where they can again photosynthesize and live. This would be analagous to standing on the bottom of a swimming pool and stretching to get your nose above water for a breath of life-giving oxygen.

In conditions of total darkness, plant cells will generally expand upward, a process called geotropism. In conditions where a small amount of light is reaching the plant, it will grow toward the brightest source of light in a process called heliotropism. Prolonged exposure to darkness will inevitably lead to the death of a plant.
 

More General Botany Questions

Should Rock Harlequin stay green all winter?
May 28, 2014 - I have a rock harlequin that came up in a area that had been disturbed. It came up last summer/fall and the foliage survived our tough winter. I can not find anything about this plant staying green al...
view the full question and answer

Why will my Butternut trees not produce nuts in Tennessee?
May 06, 2009 - I have 2 butternut trees planted about 20 ft from each other. I see the long blossoms on each tree but I have not gotten any nuts from either tree. I do not know if I have a male and female or if th...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on plant names
March 16, 2005 - I want to learn what the scientific names of plants indicate about the plant physiology, its namer, its evolutionary relation to other plants, etc. Could you give a print or web source for looking up ...
view the full question and answer

Difference between Styrax platanifolius and Styrax patanifolius ssp. texanus
November 18, 2011 - What is the difference between a Styrax platanifolius and a Styrax platanifolius texanus?
view the full question and answer

Flowers for days on end in California
March 30, 2012 - What are some plants or flowers that I can grow "all-year" in California?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center