Our gardens in many lights

dimanche 20 juillet 2014

The Stubborn Sunflower

Cet article en français.

5:00. In the morning. Since my insomnia has been lasting for the past 2 hours, I slip out of bed and outside on my back porch, in a dressing gown. Outside, the sunrise is fantastic and birds chirp their tiny heart out. Who said that living in a suburb of Montreal didn't equal having a wide variety of fauna? Because the birds - from their different calls - are plentiful and varied here. But I don't recognize them. I never learned to differentiate them (someday, maybe!).

I sit down in one of my lawn chairs and enjoy the garden. That's one reason it's there after all. For relaxation and meditation. This morning is quite nice, actually. Not a cloud in the sky, it's warm enough, the joyful bird songs fill my ears, my cat Buttercup is sleeping not too far from me and... there's a sunflower snubbing me?

I frown and watch, it (the only one), with the head stubbornly turned toward the hedge, like a school kid that's been punished and sent to the corner of the classroom. By Jove, he's just missing the hat ! What are you doing, sunflower? That's North!

 So what's heliotropism?
According to Wikipedia, it's "the diurnal or seasonal motion of plant parts in response to the direction of the sun". It's the attraction to the sun or just the light of it and the first example that generally comes to mind - beside grandparents going to Florida, is the sunflower. Alright. So what is it doing, that sunflower, watching the North?

Well, supposedly in the morning, the position may vary. But once the sun is up, the sunflower will turn toward it and follow it due west, where the sun sets. That's the theory.

Why am I telling you all that?
Because it's not the first time that I notice sunflower heads that are growing here not doing that. In fact, each one tend to look in a different direction and move but very little. And beside that specific sunflower that's looking at the hedge with verve, in all my 6 years in this specific garden, I've never noticed a sunflower following the sun with clockwork precision.

The variety of the stubborn sunflower mentionned above is either Giganteus, or Early Russian; either way, the subject of this article promises clearly multiple flower heads on that one stalk, the big one already there being followed by 2 to 4 smaller heads. In such a case, which flower should follow the sun anyway?
Here's an example dated back to 2011
of a multi-headed sunflower.
Well, the trap is in the name. We assume that the flower is supposed to follow the sun. But why should it? The head doesn't do photosynthesis, after all. And that's where, if we zero on the definition and understand it thoroughly, we understand: "the diurnal or seasonal motion of plant parts". And what parts of this fabulous plant would have the most reason to follow the sun to maximize its energy? The leaves, of course! Watch again the picture of the sunflower snubbing me (the second one in this article), taken around 5:30 - 6:00 in the morning. Here's also a picture taken at the same time but under the leaves. They show that they are indeed pointing toward the sunlight coming from the East.

Here's a similar picture of the one at the top of the article, but taken at 9:00 at night.

The head barely moved (the result of the stalk that leaned toward the West throughout the day), but the leaves - those of the plant with a flower and those of plants around that don't yet have their flowers - are now oriented West and low while in the morning they were high and oriented East.

So that's that. I didn't manage to get back to bed that morning but I learned a bit more about this giant of the garden.

Louise :
Helene's research et observations have been a revelation for me. I too, have noticed that my sunflowers didn't do what I was expecting. But it never came to mind to question this "knowledge" about the flower following the sun. Sometimes, we take for granted common knowledge to the  point of dismissing our own experience. This is a lesson for me!
This really looks like a rock band, with the singer showing its back while the dancers play their number for the audience...

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