What Is Nyctinasty?
Nyctinasty is a condition where some plants have their petals or stamens (the part of the flower containing pollen) turn into spikes. These are called nectarines because they contain sweet liquid nectar. The spike-like petal will remain attached to the plant’s stem until it falls off naturally or is removed by hand. Sometimes these spikes can grow up to several inches long!
The term “nurse” was used in the past to refer to nyctinasty. Nurse refers to a female nurse bee, which is why the name became popular. However, today most people use nurse instead of nyctinasty since it is much easier for them to pronounce. Some people also say “nyc-tin-a-tus”.
It is interesting to note that there are many different types of nyctinasty. There are those that only occur on certain kinds of flowers, and others that happen on any kind of flowering plant. Some people believe that the condition occurs due to a genetic defect in the plants themselves; however, scientists disagree with this theory. They think it may be caused by stress from being grown in poor conditions such as low light levels or high temperatures.
The word nyctinasty comes from the two words “nycto” meaning nighttime and “sthesis” meaning closing. In fact, this condition is also called “nocturnal movement”.
Nyctinasty and Other Conditions
Some plants only display nocturnal movement in certain conditions. For example, the leaves of some types of mint plants will fold up during the night. However, they do not close completely but only fold up partially. Other types of plants start closing their leaves as the sun goes down and keep them closed all night.
If you want to grow nyctinastic plants from seed, you should wait until nighttime to sow them. This will encourage the plants to develop the nocturnal movement condition at an early stage.
Nyctinastic Conditions Aren’t Uncommon
Many different types of plants display nyctinastic conditions. In fact, the condition has been found in nearly every multicellular organism that has been studied so far.
The closing movement is not always a spiky leaf. Sometimes it is the stamen. If you look at the flowers of some types of bougainvillea plants, you will see this happening. Other plant types display their stamens closing up at night.
Other types of plants display movement occurring in the petals or leaves. Sometimes the whole plant will fold up in a similar way to how the flowers do.
Some scientists think that nyctinastic conditions make plants more successful in surviving than other types of plants. They think that this condition helps protect the plant’s vital organs during the cold of night, allowing them a better chance of withstanding below freezing temperatures.
How to Make Your Own Nyctinastic Plant
This experiment should only be done under adult supervision. You will need:
1 fresh green bean
1 cup of water
1 small saucepan
a heat-resistant glass
a marker pen
a ziplock bag or plastic wrap (optional)
What You Have To Do:
Put the cup of water in the saucepan and place the pan on a stove burner. Place the green bean and the heat-resistant glass in the ziplock bag or wrap them up in plastic wrap. (This is to prevent water from getting on them and possibly breaking them during the experiment.) Place the glass with the plant inside it in the pan of water once it has come to a boil. Watch what happens when you do this.
What Is Happening?
As the plant is heated, its cells start to rapidly lose water through their pores. The sudden loss of turgor pressure due to this water loss makes the plant fold up.
The boiling water will prevent the plant from losing any more water since it is already in its liquid state. The plant, unable to draw water through its pores due to the boiling temperature, is forced to curl up to accommodate the loss of turgor pressure.
This experiment could be performed on other types of plants such as flowers or herbs. If you substitute vinegar for the water in this experiment, you will see a similar result. Acetic acid, which is one of the components of vinegar, can cause a loss of turgor pressure in a plant.