How Plants Respond to Gravity

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  • 0:00 Plant Stimuli
  • 0:27 Gravitropism
  • 1:59 Statoliths
  • 3:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Plants respond to a wide variety of stimuli. This includes gravity. This lesson explains how gravity influences a plant, especially in its earliest stages of development.

Plant Stimuli

What stimulates you? Coffee? Exercise? An exciting movie? The adrenaline rush from skydiving? There's almost certainly more than one thing that stimulates you.

What stimulates plants? If you said light, you are totally right! But light is the obvious choice. Plants are stimulated by many other things and respond to these stimuli in different ways. One of these is gravity, and we're going to discuss it right here and right now.

Gravitropism

Have you ever wondered how in the world a plant knows to grow upward, out of the ground, when it has no light to act as a stimulus when it's a young seedling underground?

Or how about this: If there is no light underground that can act as a stimulus, how do the roots know to grow downward into the ground, instead of upward out of the ground?

Well, what goes up must come down, but in the case of plants, gravity makes things go up and down at the same time!

Don't believe me? Well, you can conduct an experiment at home by taking a seedling in a pot and turning the pot upside down. You'll notice that the shoots will bend upwards with time and, if you pull the plant out of the soil, the roots will have made a U-turn to grow downwards.

This is known as gravitropism, or geotropism, which is a tendency for something to grow towards or away from Earth as a result of gravitational influence. Roots have what's known as positive gravitropism since they are affected by gravity and grow downwards. Shoots have something called negative gravitropism since they work their way against gravity and grow upwards.

Why is this important? Think about it. This kind of response to gravity ensures that it doesn't matter how a seed lands on or in the ground; it will always grow the correct direction regardless of placement. This obviously increases the chances that a plant will pass on its genetic code to the next generation.

Statoliths

Of course, gravity is just a cop out kind of answer as to why plants grow up and their roots grow down. There has to be more to the story here, guys! The plant must somehow recognize this gravitational influence in order to be stimulated by it in the first place.

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