Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
13 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

Are freshwater sponges poisonous if eaten by a dog?
September 25, 2009 - Are freshwater sponges, native to Missouri, poisonous if eaten by a dog?
view the full question and answer

Books on Lilies
August 27, 2006 - Dear Sir, I am looking for a book covering the Lily Family as a whole, i.e., it should preferably also discuss other Genera than Lilium only. I am especially interested in Lily members occurring in t...
view the full question and answer

What is white sticky substance in the Mandevilla vine?
June 15, 2012 - When I was watering my Mandevilla one of the vines broke and there was a white, sticky substance that came out of the vine. I was just curious as to what that is.
view the full question and answer

Can I grow wild rice in green house conditions?
November 17, 2010 - Can I grow Zizania aquatica (wild rice) in green house conditions?
view the full question and answer

Can users sort plant lists in the Plant Database?
November 17, 2008 - Although your database searches are very useful, I would like to take it further, for example by sorting the "Central Texas Recommended" list on various columns, as you might do in a spreadsheet. D...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.