A short while ago I wrote an article entitled "Sleep Disorders of Animals", discussing the sleep habits of various members of the animal kingdom. It's an established fact that all animals need sleep, not just human animals. It's probably no surprise to most people that animals need sleep. Anyone who spent any time with the family pet has no doubt observed this for themselves.
But what about plants? Do plants sleep? Do plants need sleep? The answer to both questons is a resounding "YES." When discussing plants, however, the correct term is dormancy rather than sleep. All plants do need this period of rest, although it is true that some need more "sleep" than others. Plants in colder northern regions remain dormant much longer than plants in more temperate zones.
It may appear that some plants never become dormant. Evergreens, for instance, seem to be the same month after month. They may not lose their bright green foliage, but they do slow down and rest. The sap flows more slowly. No fresh growth is produced. Perhaps one could say they are just dozing.
In tropical regions, plants seem never to rest, but they do. All plants have dormant stages. Just like humans, they need time to regroup and recuperate from a long season of producing buds, fruit, new leaves, roots and all that goes with being productive plants.
People and other animals need sleep. If they do not get enough sleep, they suffer from sleep deprivation, become irritable, confused, unable to concentrate. Plants also need their rest. If deprived of their dormancy, they become weak, will not bloom and eventually may succumb to disease or insect infestation.
So how do plants know when it's time to rest? There are several ways. For some plants, it's a change in the amount of moisture they receive. Others know that when the nights become colder and frost turns the leaves to brilliant hues, it's time to shut down for a rest.
But for most plants, it's a change in the rhythm of day and night. Days become shorter, nights become longer, because, just like humans and other animals, plant life is ruled by rhythm.
As I mentioned earlier, some plants have rest periods at other seasons, but most choose the winter. Take a walk in a winter forest.
Look around you at the deep green needles of the spruce and fir trees. Don't let them fool you. They aren't as perky as they look. They're dormant. Look at the deciduous (leaf shedding) trees and shrubs. Don't let then fool you either. They aren't dead. They are merely at rest.
Spring is just around the next bend in the river. Imagine all this foliage awakening, stretching, yawning. Just like you. And look! New buds to herald their awakening. It's the perfect time for you to stop and smell the roses.
Published On: March 06, 2008