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Why do Prayer Plants move?

I recently posted this time-lapse video of all of my prayer plants moving over the course of two days to my social media platforms. Following this, I got quite a few questions from you all asking something along the lines of "do you know why prayer plants move?". My response at the time, was "to be honest, I don't know". I figured it was to do with circadian rhythms or something, but wasn't sure and didn't want to give out the wrong information, so I thought I'd look into it, and spread the factual word through this blog post 😏

Circadian Rhythm

Well, I was right in thinking it was something to do with circadian rhythms; Circadian rhythms are biological cycles, that have a time frame of around 24 hours and many life forms are known to experience these rhythms including humans, animals and plants!

Circadian rhythms are extremely important to a plants survival, especially when out in their natural habitat. The way in which circadian rhythms support plants is by allowing them to adapt to their surroundings by synchronising to the predictable changes that will occur on a regular basis, such as the light and temperature changes from day to night. For plants these rhythms will determine things such as growth, flowering, photosynthesis and responding to environmental stress.

Plants will even experience jet leg due to circadian rhythms! If a plant travels across the world through time zones, say from Australia to London, it will experience jet leg just like humans, it's circadian rhythms will need to adjust to its new environment. It is believed that plants adjust much quicker to large time changes like this compared to us humans.

Nyctinastic Movement and Pulvinus Cells

Now lets get back to thinking about those prayer plants. The term 'prayer plants' is the common name for several different types of plants that change position at night when their leaves fold upwards in what could be considered as the traditional hand position for praying. The closing up of the leaves is called nyctinastic movement and is caused by a hinge-like formation at the base of the leaf called the pulvinus. The pulvinus is a group of cells that fill with water during the day and empty at night causing the nyctinastic movement. There is still debate as to why these plants actually do this, but it is possibly for protection from the elements and predators. Closing the leaves up together will provide greater protection from the wind or other beings pushing past, compared to having their leaves flopping around getting hit and damaged. Folding the leaves up will also give the impression that the plant is not as full and luscious as it is, therefore predators will be less inclined to have a lil snack on them.

Although, not all plants only move to tuck themselves up at night! Given the right conditions, you will often notice these plants change position many times throughout the day and not just at night, I like to think of them as dancing plants! 💃🏻 It's not just prayer plants that do this, there are other types of plants that are known to move during the day and particularly at night. Such plants include the Oxalis Triangularis aka False Shamrock, the Codariocalyx Motorius aka Telegraph Plant and the Mimosa Pudica aka Sensitive Plant. The Mimosa Pudica and other types of plants will also move in response to touch, but I think that is a blog post for another day!

The ID's for the plants in the time-lapse video:

Calathea Zebrina

Stromanthe Sanguinea
Calathea Orbifolia

Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii

Calathea Sanderiana

Calathea Musaica

Calathea Rufibarba

This was a short and sweet blog post; In summary, scientist aren't sure why these plants move yet but we do know how they move and there are some theories for the why. I hope you enjoyed this little read. Do you have any dancing plants? I'd love to hear about them, leave a comment or get in touch with me through my social media links to let me know! 🥰


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