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

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

Blooming but not berrying American bittersweet from Pendleton IN
May 29, 2013 - I have had a bittersweet plant for years, it blooms but not berries. How do I tell if it is male or female so I can buy the opposite? It is currently blooming.
view the full question and answer

Burn the wetlands
June 02, 2010 - Can the wetlands of Louisiana that have been soaked in oil be burned? I am a native plant gardener in the midwest. Burning is a natural process in the prairie. Southerners are not used to this and ma...
view the full question and answer

Do plants grow faster in natural or artificial light?
March 13, 2009 - Do you think plants will grow faster in natural light or artificial light or a combination of both? And why do you think that. and need your answer for my biology project please and thank you for your...
view the full question and answer

Student research on fire-resistance plant labels from Garden Ridge TX
November 13, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I'm a 4th grader at Garden Ridge Elementary in Comal County. I am researching fire resistant plants. Can you please tell me if most plants' tags say whether they are fire r...
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
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center