View Full Version : Do some plants give off heat when sprouting?

03-01-2010, 11:21 AM
I saw a galanthus (snowdrop) plant this morning that was growing up through a 5 inch snow cover. Around the plant was a circular zone where there was no snow. I understand, I believe, that these plants store energy in the form of food in their roots that they will use to manipulate molecules, and build themselves up to the point that they can derive their needed energy from the sun. Does some of this stored energy escape in the form of heat? Is that how these little guys make their way through and up so early in such cold circumstances?

03-01-2010, 11:32 AM
Yes, some plants do generate heat, to sprout through frozen soil, or to disperse senct to attract polinators. fior example, the skunk cabbage.


03-01-2010, 11:44 AM
In addition to Arkcon's post:

Some plants also produce "antifreeze" both internally and externally.

And, part of the reason the snow might melt around it is just simple absorption of light. White snow reflects light really well - anything darker will absorb more of it and therefore be warmed up. You can see this with dark-colored rocks quite dramatically.

03-01-2010, 09:31 PM
Hot Flowers in Winter's Cold (http://plant-ecology.suite101.com/article.cfm/hot_flowers_in_winters_cold):

Thermogenic flowers are thought to have evolved in response to ice age conditions. They are the first plants to bloom in the spring. Garden snowdrops and crocuses may bloom even before skunk cabbages. Both can bloom through several inches of snow. These garden flowers, native to Europe, emit delicate, sweet-smelling odors that attract European honeybees and other pollinators. They provide the first sources of food for honeybees, while the skunk cabbage does the same for native flies and beetles that are attracted to it.

03-01-2010, 10:18 PM
Is it cruel to tell you that today was the first real day of spring here? I saw ten or eleven blooming redbuds and yards full of sudden daffodils?

03-01-2010, 10:23 PM
Is it cruel to tell you that today was the first real day of spring here?

Yes. Yes, it is. Here in upstate New York we are just embarking on the late winter slush season and won't see the first snowdrop for weeks. I hate you, Zsofia.

(No I don't. But damn, I want me some daffodils.)

Hirka T'Bawa
03-01-2010, 10:44 PM
Just want to add that the way these plants produce heat is through by passing the ATP synthesis in the mitochondria. There is a chemical, or drug, that causes the hydrogen ions to re-enter the mitochondria without producing ATP. Since the laws of thermodynamics say that energy is not destroyed, it is transformed, the energy that would have produced ATP is instead turned into waste heat. This of course is useful to plants that need this in order to melt their way to sunlight.

There is a drug out there that will do the same thing to the mitochondria in a human... But I don't remember what it was. I took that class about a year and a half ago... If someone really wanted to know, I could look back on my notes and find out, but won't do it unless someone requests.

03-02-2010, 08:02 AM
Thanks. And once I found the term, thermogenesis, I was able to search on my own. I read that the drug you mention, Hirka, may be useful in treating Alzheimer's. I wish I had understood the Kreb's cycle when I first studied it, however, as that would have eased my immersion into this subject.