How Does Phototropism Occur In Plants?

How Does Phototropism Occur In Plants?

Phototropism is when an organism grows in response to a light stimulus. Most of the time, phototropism is seen in plants, but it can also happen in fungi and other organisms. When phototropism happens, a hormone called auxin acts on the cells of the plant that are farthest from the light.

This makes the plant’s cells longer on the side that isn’t facing the light. Phototropism is one of the many ways that plants move in response to stimuli from the outside world.

Differences Between Phototropism And Photoperiodism

Phototropism is when plants grow toward or away from light. When the length of the day and night controls flowering and other changes in development. Positive phototropism is when a plant grows toward a light source. And negative phototropism is when a plant grows away from a light source.

Negative phototropism is not the same as skototropism, which means growing toward darkness. Negative phototropism can mean either growing away from a light source or growing towards darkness. Most plant shoots have positive phototropism, and their chloroplasts move around in the leaves to get the most energy out of photosynthesis and help the plant grow.

plants isms

Some vine shoot tips have negative phototropism, which lets them grow toward dark, solid objects and climb them. Phototropism and gravitropism work together to help plants grow in the right direction.

Important Facts

  • Plants grow, develop, and change in many different ways in response to light, sometimes only to certain wavelengths of light.
  • In phototropism, light makes a plant bend or grow in a certain direction. Most roots move away from the light, while most shoots move toward it.
  • In photoperiodism, the length of the day affects flowering and other parts of a plant’s growth and development.
  • Short-day plants bloom when the length of the day is less than a certain point, while long-day plants bloom when the length of the day is more than a certain point.
  • Photoperiodism is controlled in many plants by the way the length of the day and the plant’s own internal circadian rhythms work together.


Photosynthesis is essential for the survival of almost all plants because it allows them to produce sugar molecules that can be used for both energy and structural purposes.

However, there are various ways in which plants react to light, often in response to very precise wavelengths of light. Plants are able to adapt to their surroundings and maximize their growth thanks to these responses, which are unrelated to photosynthesis.

For instance, some seeds won’t sprout until they’ve been exposed to a certain amount of light, among other stimuli. To determine if they are in the shade of nearby plants, other plants use the intensity and direction of the light they are exposed to.


Growing taller will give them an advantage over their rivals and allow them to soak up more of the light. It seems to reason that photosensitivity is essential for plants to be able to respond to light. 

Photoreceptors are proteins bound to light-absorbing pigments called chromophores, and they are responsible for light perception in plants. Absorption of light by the chromophore results in a structural change to the protein, which in turn affects the protein’s activity and initiates a signaling cascade.

The light cue triggers a reaction in the form of altered gene expression, growth, or hormone synthesis as a result of the signaling pathway. This article will examine two specific instances of plant reactions to light and how they enable plants to adapt their growth to their surroundings:


Plants exhibit phototropism, a directed reaction that causes them to either grow toward or away from an artificial light source.


What we call ‘photoperiodism’ is the process of physiological or developmental regulation in response to changes in the length of the day. Some plant species are limited in their ability to blossom, or “go into a reproductive mode,” during specific periods of the year due to a phenomenon called photoperiodism.

What Is Phototropism?

Phototropism, in which a plant grows toward or away from a light source, is an important light response. Phototropism can be positive, in which case growth occurs toward a light source, or negative, in which case growth occurs away from light.

Above-ground plant sections called “shoots” typically exhibit positive phototropism, meaning they curve toward the light source. The green sections of the plant are able to move closer to the light source, facilitating photosynthesis, thanks to this response. In contrast, roots gravitate away from sources of illumination.

A Cellular Signal Is Required For Phototropism

Charles Darwin and his son Francis wrote about how grass seedlings will bend towards the light and published it in a paper in 1880. This reaction was specifically studied in newly emerged plants, while the coleoptile still protected the leaves and shoots.

The bending reaction was studied by the father and son team by covering either the coleoptile tip or the bottom half in a series of studies.

Through these tests, it was determined that the coleoptile tip is capable of perceiving light. The response, however, occurred far from the tip and involved bending cellular level elongation inequalities, and cell asymmetry.

Boysen-Jensen Experiment

They deduced that information must be communicated from the coleoptile’s apex to its base. Following up on this research in 1913, Danish physiologist Peter Boysen-Jensen demonstrated that a chemical signal generated at the tip was responsible for the bending reaction.

boysen jensen experiment
  • He severed the end of a coleoptile, placed a block of gelatin over the exposed area, and then reattached the end. When exposed to light, the coleoptile bent like a normal bone.
  • The coleoptile’s capacity to flex in response to light was lost when he repeated the experiment with an impermeable flake of mica instead of gelatin.

Gelatin was essential because it served as a conduit for a chemical signal to reach the base from the tip.

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In a similar experiment, Boysen-Jensen demonstrated that mobile signals propagated along the seedling’s shaded side. The plant maintained its ability to bend towards the light when the mica plate was inserted into the illuminated side. But lost this ability when the plate was inserted into the shaded side.

The phototropic response included more rapid cell elongation on the dark side compared to the light side. This experiment’s findings also suggested that the signal was a growth stimulant rather than a growth repressor.

Auxin And Phototropins

The name “phototropin” itself serves as a convenient reminder that phototropism relies on a class of proteins called photoreceptors. Phototropins, like all plant photoreceptors, consists of a protein complex containing a chromophore, an organic molecule that can absorb light.

Phototropins are especially attracted to blue light, which is why they are so effective at absorbing it. Light activation causes a change in form and activity, and these proteins can influence the behavior of other cellular proteins.


Phototropin molecules on the light-exposed side of a coleoptile absorb a great deal of light. Whereas those on the dark side absorb only a small fraction of the light. Uncertain processes behind this variation in phototropin activation lead to differential transport of the plant hormone auxin.

On the sunny side, auxin transfer is higher, while on the shaded side, it is lower. Because auxin encourages cell elongation, the plant leans toward the darker side and curves toward the light.


Some plant species cannot enter their reproductive phase until they experience a certain number of days of daylight and darkness. Flowers of short-day plants develop only when the number of daylight hours falls below an optimum level. Short-day plants include rice.

Long-day plants are those that are photoperiod-dependent. Meaning that they only bloom when the number of daylight hours exceeds a given threshold. Long-day plants include spinach and sugar beets. These plants are able to sync their flowering time with the seasons since they only bloom when the day or nighttime hours reach a specified threshold.

Both long- and short-day plants exist. Flowering in these plants does not change with the length of the day. Moreover, although it is flowering that has received the majority of attention from scientists. Photoperiod (day duration) can influence many other traits as well.

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For example, in colder climates, trees go into bud dormancy in the fall to prepare for the winter. And tuber formation in potatoes is also regulated by light levels.

photoperiodism and phototropism

What Precisely Is The Plant gauging?

Plants may be measuring the length of the night, despite our classification of them as short-day or long-day. The length of the dark period, rather than the length of the light period, may be the determining factor in whether or not the plant blooms.

The length of the night is especially important to the photoperiodic response of short-day plants. These are the hallmarks of typical short-day plants:

  • When days are short and nights are long, it is when they bloom.
  • When the days are long and the nights are short, they do not blossom.
  • Even when the long night is broken by a little time of light, they do not bloom.
  • When the long day is broken by a brief time of dark, they do not bloom.

When we factor in long-day plants, the picture shifts slightly. As with the short-day plants in the preceding diagram, some long-day plants actually do monitor the duration of the night.

However, in contrast to short-day plants, these long-day plants require the duration of nighttime to be less than or equal to a critical length. Dark-dominant plants are those that respond to the length of the night by producing flowers, rather than the day.

However, it appears that the length of the day, and not the length of the night, is used by many other long-day plant species to choose when to flower. It is said that these plants are light-dominant.

Light dominance is thought to predominate among long-day plant species, while dark dominance is more common among short-day plant species, according to scientists.


Distinct plants have different genes and “wiring,” but it is likely that many plant species employ some kind of external coincidence model to control blooming and other photoperiod-regulated processes.

Some plant species may use radically different methods to track photoperiods and correlate this data with changes in development. For instance, the older phytochrome hourglass model of photoperiodism does not need congruence between circadian rhythms and photoperiod length.

Instead, this finding provides support for the idea that phytochromes may function as a kind of clock to gauge how long it has been dark outside. Even while this theory is no longer commonly recognized, it may hold true for some vegetation.

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Maria D Ramsey

Hey Maria D Ramsey here, I am a journalist and author with a love for writing guides that help people improve their lives. I was born and raised in the United States, and my hobbies include cooking and reading novels.

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