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Sunday - November 06, 2005

From: Lizella, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Where and when bloom; will they bloom in artificial light
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Do wildflowers grow through out the world, even in desert and Arctic regions? When do they bloom? Will they bloom in artificial light? What is the most interesting fact about wildflowers?


Yes, flowering plants grow throughout the world. Even Antarctica, perhaps the harshest climate in the world, has two flowering plants. Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) and Antarctic hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica). In the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic) the growing season is very short, less than three months, and limited to when the soil warms enough to thaw. The predominant plants are grasses and sedges and most plants remain very short, usually less than one foot or 20 cm. One of the Antarctic plants, Deschampsia antarctica, has adapted to its harsh environment by producing antifreeze proteins. Deserts also have flowering plants. Many of the desert plants have special adaptations to survive long periods without water. One of the major adaptations is to have a small surface area to reduce water loss. Desert plants tend to have small leaves that are thick and waxy, or no leaves at all. Succulent desert plants, such as the cacti, are able to store water in their thick stems.

Many plants in the tropical regions can bloom all year long. The blooming of plants in the polar regions is limited to the short period of late spring and summer. Many desert plants bloom in response to rainfall. For flowering plants in the temperate zones, many plants begin flowering in late winter or early spring and continue flowering into late fall; whereas others bloom only in the spring, some bloom only in the summer, and still others only in the fall. One of the major contributors in determining when a plant flowers is day length, or, more accurately, the length of the period of darkness it experiences. Some plants, for example, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), require a long night to bloom in the late fall/early winter. Wheat (Triticum aestivum), on the other hand, blooms in summer in response to a short night. Then, there are day-neutral plants such as cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and corn (Zea mays) that bloom in response to cues other than day length. Plants will grow and flower under artificial lights but the particular wave length of light and its intensity are important.

I think the most interesting fact about wildflowers is that they come in so many sizes, forms, and colors and grow in so many varied places. Even in an environment that you think you know well, you can be surprised by a new flowering plant that you have never seen before.

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