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

Bird nest fungus in Central Austin, TX.
August 21, 2012 - Hi, I live in Central Austin and have different types of ground cover (such as silver pony foot)in my garden and have noticed huge patches of bird's nest fungi in between and under. Every time it ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants as accumulators of heavy metals in Texas
March 29, 2008 - I would like to know of any native plants that could be used as hyperaccumulaters of heavy metals in Texas.
view the full question and answer

Dyes from native North American plants
November 29, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been working as a textile designer for many years and am now interested in harvesting native North American plants in order to create natural dyes. Which plant ...
view the full question and answer

Inducing flowering out of season
June 22, 2007 - We are currently conducting research on insect transmission of a plant virus to flowering weeds. Is there a process to trick biennials into flowering in their first year?
view the full question and answer

Purple leatherflower with white bloom
July 17, 2014 - A couple of years ago at the wildflower center native plant sale I bought a purple leatherflower according to the tag. This is the first year it has bloomed and the blooms are pure white. The shape ma...
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