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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - May 16, 2010

From: Johannesburg, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Trillium phototropism
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

I'm SURE you haven't had this question before. I live in northern Michigan in a wooded subdivision where we have clouds of wild grandiflorum trilliums growing in the woods on either side of the road. Today I noticed a four-petaled trillium, which got me searching the net. My question has to do with something else I've noticed. Every day, 90 percent of the trilliums on the RIGHT side of the road "face" the road. At the same time, 90 percent of the trilliums on the LEFT side of the road "face" the road. I've decided they must have some kind of sun-tracking mechanism like sunflowers. (Only, of course, the trilliums are not seeking the sun but the lighter area of the open road.) They do this in the early spring even when the trees are virtually leafless. The mechanism seems to "work" for trilliums far into the woods, not just those within ten feet of the road. Every year I marvel at this, but am stumped to explain it. Can you help?

ANSWER:

Regarding the four-petaled Trillium flower it is not unusual to find variation in the number of floral parts. This phenomenon results from developmental instabilibity and it casuses meristic variation (variation in the number of parts). Both environmental and genetic factors can cause a deviation from the normal number of floral parts and it occurs at a low level throughout the plant world.

Now for part two of your question. You are quite observant to notice the solar tracking behaviour of the Trillium flowers. This phenomenon is called phototropism (light seeking growth) and it is common in the genus Trillium.

 

From the Image Gallery


White wake-robin
Trillium grandiflorum

Red trillium
Trillium erectum

Painted trillium
Trillium undulatum

More General Botany Questions

Plant-related skin rashes from Round Rock TX
September 23, 2013 - I have been plagued with persistent skin rashes this summer, and it is happening with plants that have never bothered me before, for example, red yucca. The dermatologist says it is a plant reaction,...
view the full question and answer

Petals on Black eyed Susans not developing from Austin
September 04, 2012 - I just read Barbara Medfords response to undeveloped petals on perennial black eyed susans and was disappointed not to find a better explanation. I have had the exact same thing happen to mine, and I...
view the full question and answer

Endemic plants for the Edwards Plateau
March 23, 2008 - Thanks so much for the info. it will be very helpful with the boys and we really stress "Leave No Trace Behind". The pictures will be enough. Thanks again!!
view the full question and answer

Percentage of flowers that close up at night
July 19, 2007 - Percentage-wise, approximately how many species of flowers close up at night? Is there a list anywhere?
view the full question and answer

Information about prickly pear cactus for school project
October 19, 2012 - Hello my name is Case Danzeiser. I go to a middle school called Clint Small Middle School in Austin, Texas. We are doing a species study on a native Texas plants and animals. I choose to study the pri...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center