A Taraxacum teaser

It’s spring and the dandelions are happy to see you!  I’ve taken photos of two groups of dandelions just footsteps away from one another. The populations are both in full sun, with similar types of soil and water availability. You’ll note that one group has very short flower stalks, while the second has longer stalks:

So what’s responsible for the difference in flower stalk length?  And for extra credit, what’s the scientific term for the phenomenon?

If this isn’t something you’ve noticed before, you will from now on!  Answers Monday!

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - www.facebook.com/TheGardenProfessors "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - www.facebook.com/groups/GardenProfessors Books: http://www.sustainablelandscapesandgardens.com

3 thoughts on “A Taraxacum teaser”

  1. My best guess is that humans using a lawn mower are responsible for the difference in flower stalk length. Dandelions are great in adapting to growing/environmetal conditions. The plants where the lawn is frequently mowed response with growing shorter stems to ensure reproduction success. I don’t know the scientific term for this phenomenon, perhaps we could call it adaptive phenotypic plasticity?

  2. I think I remember this from HS AP Biology and it was a trick question from our teacher although it was a bean plant in our study – I say phototropism.

    The ones in the longer grass are being shaded out a bit and adapting to their situation by growing longer stems on one side and bending.

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