Living/Learning Center Programs

The University of Vermont




Plants that Move: Fact or Fantasy?

How Plants Respond to Environmental Challenges



Faculty:†††††† Dr. Chunfang Wei

†††††††††††††††††† Research Assistant Professor

†††††††††††††††††† Department of Botany

†††††††††††††††††† College of Agriculture and Life Sciences



Program Overview:


How many science fiction stories have you encountered with giant plants that can walk, eat and otherwise cause trouble to us lowly humans?Most people think that plants cannot move.It is true that plants cannot move as animals can, but because of that they have had to develop other responses to environmental stimuli.Plant movements are subtle.An animal can find a cool place when it is too hot, but a plant cannot.Paraheliotropism, the reversible leaf movement of many plant species, allows them to avoid excessive light during the day so that they can deal with both drought and heat stress.Plants also donít have eyes or ears as animals do to find their way to water and food.But, gravitropism, the directional movement of plant roots in response to the stimulus of gravity, allows the roots to grow downward towards the soil to uptake water and minerals.The study of these plant responses is not only interesting, but also important since it will enrich our understanding of the plant physiology and can potentially be beneficial to our lives.


This program will provide an interesting opportunity to observe plant movements first-hand.Students will grow some plants in the lab and expose the plants to different environmental conditions so that they can observe paraheliotropism and gravitropism.Students will also learn a little about the basics of light and gravity through weekly, active discussions about their experiments.In an effort to provide students with an extensive knowledge-base, we will also invite experts from a variety of disciplines to give talks on relevant topics.