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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - June 25, 2012

From: Cambridge , ON
Region: Canada
Topic: General Botany
Title: Leaf motion in still air in ON
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

What causes a tree or plant to dance when the other plants around it are still and no wind???

ANSWER:

Seeing a plant or tree "do" that is one of the things that brings back a childhood "sense of wonder" and a reminder of the almost magical mysteries of nature, doesn't it?  Hearing the rustle of poplar leaves on a day when there seems to be no breeze whatsoever is one of my favourite examples.

Although the air seems still, it isn't actually.  There are many factors like differential heating and cooling and structures that cause the air currents to eddy and vary in speed in different locations that are in close proximity.  Once the air catches the plant it can set it into a state of motion that is similar to a standing wave which will linger after the gust of air has subsided.

Of course that is just one explanation and a dry, scientific one at that.  Personally, I like to savour the more magical side of nature (and summer) whenever I have the chance.

 

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