Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
57 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

Starting a sweet potato in water in Duluth MN
April 11, 2011 - I am trying to start a sweet potato plant in water. I noticed 3 days after it's in water, there is white finger like(hairy) areas at the tip of the bottom of the potato and also on the sides. I have...
view the full question and answer

How Do Persimmons Breed - Starkville, MS
August 14, 2012 - Thank you for your earlier response about the genders of native persimmon trees. We have two, a much larger one that has borne fruit for years and years and a smaller one that I'd just assumed was m...
view the full question and answer

Contacts with botanical illustrators
July 16, 2006 - I am interested in preparing 3D (stereoscopic) illustrations of plants and flowers. Can you give some contacts with botanical illustrators for guidance? Are there any guidelines about botanical illust...
view the full question and answer

What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
May 22, 2013 - What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Native New Jersey plants to remove iron water from Lawrenceville NJ
October 20, 2012 - Are there any native New Jersey plants that can remove iron water
view the full question and answer

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