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Archive for the ‘Teachable Moments’ Category

Gerbera Daisies Dramatic Tropism Display

Upon first glance, the pretty pink Gerbera flowers looked like regular daisies. The petals were a bright vibrant pink, and the center seed pod was a brilliant yellow with a lime hue. The leaves were very distinctive, green and pointed with a slight velvety feel.

I placed the flowerpot in the window sill next to my desk so we could admire each other’s beauty. About four days later, the plant did not like the view. Though the stems were standing straight and tall, the flowers were hanging their heads down and looked like sad and pitiful Mii characters on the Wii after losing. Then, I remembered the care card said it needed bright sunlight. I had wanted the flower near my desk and thought exposure to indirect daylight would be sufficient. Alas, I would have to appreciate the plant’s beauty from afar.

I moved them to kitchen window sill, which gets the brightest and most direct sunlight. In a few minutes, the plant was standing straight at attention. It was such a fast and dramatic change that we found it very amusing. The timing was also good because we were studying plant tropism, which is sensitivity to environmental changes that affects the direction of plant growth.

We learned about three kinds of tropism. Phototropism is sensitivity to light. Geotropism refers to changes in the soil that affect the direction of plant growth. Hydrotropism is environmental changes in water causing plants to grow or move. However, we were about to expand our understanding tropism.

I bounced down to the kitchen to discover my beautiful little plant looking a little depressed. Maybe, it did miss my exchange of carbon dioxide. I thought we had a perfectly symbiotic relationship. I gave it carbon dioxide and it purified my air with oxygen. No matter how dramatic the plant’s change in direction, I knew it could not be feeling rejected. Then, I remembered that the care instructions said it needed moist soil. The plant was acting so alive, that it almost felt like I was invading its privacy by reaching into the pot to feel the soil. It was not completely dry but could use a little more water. We watered the plant, got the soil most, and it was in the window receiving bright direct sunlight. We had satisfied hydrotropism, geotropism, and phototropism. Daisy, as my daughter called it, perked right up. We figured everything would be all good.

I researched Gerbera flowers because these seemed a little exotic. The first search said it was from the sunflower family. Now, the plant really had me confused. I looked up its scientific classification and discovered that Asteraceae class includes both daisies and sunflowers. Upon closer inspection, it really did look like a small sunflower with pink petals. We were experiencing a lot about tropism from a familiar plant.

The next morning, the plant was okay. It was a cloudy winter’s day. So, I left it on the window sill to get as much light as possible. By the end of the day, not only was the flower bent over like a dejected hunchback Mii, but also the stems and the leaves were wilted. Irrational thoughts crossed my mind like how can I raise children if I cannot keep from killing a plant. Maybe this thought was a little dramatic, but so was the plant. I felt the soil again. It was moist and not too damp. It had been a cloudy day, so I settled on the planted needed light. I placed it directly under my desk lamp. After about an hour, the stem and leaves stretched upwards towards the light. But, the flowers looked a little dull. I decided not to leave the plant in the dark that night. After all, I am a good parent, my plant was not ready to face the night without a night-light. So, I took the plant to the bathroom in my bedroom, turned on the light, and closed the door.

The next morning, the plant was vibrant. It was a bright sunny winter’s day that got up to the seventies, so I placed Daisy back in the kitchen window. The plant started to show signs of its old self.  I went to bed more relaxed leaving the flowerpot in the kitchen window.

I bounced down to the kitchen expecting to see my bright cheerful sunflower. The leaves and petals were drooping like over stretched pantyhose. Again, this is a plant. So, it could not be reacting from not being near me in my bathroom. But, I had changed the plant’s environment.

Most plants do not live in 24 hour light, so only light could not be the reason for the change. Then it hit me, the poor plant was suffering from phototropism. The sensitivity to light, or in this case, a lack of heat was caused by no light. It was seventy during the day, but at night sometimes the temperature dropped into the low forties or thirties. The plant was freezing in the window at night. In the mornings, it was communicating as alive as it could. The message was we needed to expand our understanding of tropisms to include thermotropism.