Leaves Injured at Night by Free Radiation


FRITZ MÜLLER, in a letter to me from Sta. Catharina in Brazil, dated August 9, supports the view which I have advanced with respect to leaves placing themselves in a vertical position at night, during their so-called sleep, in order to escape being chilled and injured by radiation into the open sky. He says: “We have had last week some rather cold nights (2° to 3° C. at sunrise), and these have given me a new confirmation of your view on the meaning of the nyctitropic movements of plants. Near my house there are some Pandanus trees, about a dozen years old; the youngest terminal leaves stand upright, whereas the older ones are bent down so as to expose their upper surfaces to the sky. These young leaves, though of course the most tender, are still as fresh and green as before; on the contrary, the older ones have suffered from the cold, and have become quite yellowish. Again, the leaves of Oxalis sepium were observed by me to sleep in a very imperfect manner during the summer, even after the most sunny days; but now, in winter, every leaflet hangs down in a perpendicular position during the whole night.” It is a new fact to me that leaves should sleep in a more or less perfect manner at different seasons of the year.

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DARWIN, C. Leaves Injured at Night by Free Radiation. Nature 24, 459 (1881). https://doi.org/10.1038/024459a0

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