heliotropism (sun turning). Before the fruit of the sunflowers is produced sunflower heads track the sun across the sky, turning their flowers from east to west as the day progresses, and then return to the east overnight. New research has finally been able to figure out exactly how this happens.
To see if the plants had their own biological clocks that were reset daily by the sun, similar to our own, or were simply moving according to a pre-determined schedule, the team performed a series of experiments.
First they staked the plants so they couldn't move, then they brought the flowers into an indoor lab with a fixed artificial light, and finally the researchers created a different 'daylight' cycles.
Throughout their experiments, the team showed that flowers tethered away from the sun had leaves that were 10 percent smaller on average. One side of the stem grows faster than the other, depending on the time of day, causing the plant to swing its head. And they also showed that eastward-oriented flowers are warmer than westward-oriented flowers, and this warmth attracts pollinators, suggesting there's an evolutionary benefit to the plants chasing the sun.
The research has been published in the journal Science.
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