In the spring, plants seem to go from dead and brittle to bright green and budding in no time at all. Then, before you realize it, the colors have all come forth, turning nature into a lively dance. Have you ever wondered exactly how a flower bud changes from a tightly wound cocoon to an explosion of vivid colors, textures, and smells? It is a complex process that involves many factors.
Sometimes plants don’t bloom during the proper season. There are several different elements at play that determine if and when individual plants are going to bloom. The elements include:
- The strength or weakness of the plant’s genetic makeup
- Elevation and location
- Amount of sun
- Weather changes
- Age of the plant
- The presence of disease or blight
Scientists can predict roughly when a plant is going to bloom based on history and seasonal weather conditions, which provides accurate enough information to narrow down the start of a plant’s blooming season. Weather information is highly predictive of earlier or later blooming seasons for flowers.
However, climate change is slowly altering the way plants grow and how they bloom. Since the 1800s, the blooming seasons have actually changed by almost two months for most plants. For the most part, we will never be able to predict the exact time a certain flower will bloom and all the flowers on the same plant may not bloom at the same time.
The Blooming Process
The process of flowers opening up is part of a plant’s reproductive cycle. If a plant does not bloom or develop seeds, it cannot be pollinated. A plant that blossoms is mature and ready to take part in the development of seeds that will carry new plant life to surrounding areas.
Blooming occurs when the petals within a bud start to grow to the point that they invert and fill with enough water that the only place to go is out. Depending on the flower, this process may occur very quickly or it may slowly press out until the flower has fully blossomed over a period of days.
The plant knows when to start blooming due to a gene called Apetala1. It is the developmental gene that seems to be in control of all the other growth genes, and it triggers the growth described above by sending out plant proteins to all the other genes that tell the flower it is time to open up shop. This genetic information is important for the flowering plant industry because plant geneticists and producers can manipulate it to create more efficient flowering plants and control the reproduction process.
How Do Florists Make Flowers Blossom?
We love to have blossoming flowers for off season holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. There never seems to be a shortage of flowers during this time, but how do the florists make it happen?
Plant geneticists and the flower industry rely on being able to control the conditions where their plants are grown to meet the demand of the public for off-season flowers. Sometimes plants will be imported from a different location where they are naturally blooming. Often, they are grown in greenhouse conditions that are carefully nurtured and monitored so that the flowers will be ready at any given time of the year.
Light is one of the main predictors of growth. If florists maintain all other variables in a greenhouse for optimal growth, they can manipulate the amount of light flowering plants receive to encourage them to bloom. Plants that bloom in the spring and summer prefer lots of light. Extended periods of darkness effectively trick plants into believing it is winter, and they won’t want to bloom. If you shorten the dark periods and extend the “daylight hours,” they believe it is spring and will open up whenever needed. The converse of that process is used to trick autumn blooming plants. Growers will extend the darkened period of time to encourage growth.
With as much as we know about how plants work, there are still nuances to individual species that are totally new and have the potential to advance science in ways we can’t yet imagine. For instance, we know why flowers and plants move in the sunlight or close up at night, but we don’t fully understand the process. Even within a single plant, the flowers may be governed by different stimuli and be affected by disease or sunburn while other parts of a plant thrive. Scientists are continuing to find new ways to better cultivate and manage flowers and other plants every day.
Photographer Pneumann70 offered the photograph of Flower under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer JamesDemers offered the photograph of Peony Bud under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Kapa65 offered the photograph of Crocus under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer cocoparisienne offered the photograph of Crocus under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer PublicDomainPictures offered the photograph of Crocus under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Mariamichelle offered the photograph of Greenhouse under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay