Can plants get sunburn?

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Thomas Wills

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Can plants get sunburn?
« on: 24/10/2011 07:30:02 »
Thomas Wills  asked the Naked Scientists:

I'm Tom Wills from Blandford Forum. 

I loved the show this week on plants, and with all the sunshine, I've been wondering if plants can get sunburnt? Since they can't move into the shade, what stops them getting burnt?
Thanks for the great show

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 24/10/2011 07:30:02 by _system »


Offline Don_1

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Can plants get sunburn?
« Reply #1 on: 24/10/2011 10:13:34 »
Plants tend to grow in an area which suits their requirements.

If seed falls in an unsuitable position (as will often be the case) the seedling will not survive.

A good example of a plant put in an unsuitable position would be an Aucuba Japonica (aka Spotted Laurel). These shrubs prefer shaded areas. In the correct place the glossy ovate leaves are a deep green with yellow speckled variegation. If placed in deep shade, the variegation will not occur, but in too much sun, the leaves become a dull yellow all over. Also, it will not grow very big and may well die in constant full sun. So this is a plant which certainly suffers from sunburn. This happens due to the intervention of humans usually, but it can happen in nature. A badly situated plant, as I have said, is unlikely to survive.

Under natural conditions, plants have evolved leaves to suit the conditions in which they grow. Sometimes, however, extreme unusual conditions may occur. This can cause suffering to plants and result in a poor crop, which might take a year or more to recover the population, in the case of annual and biennial plants. Perennials and evergreens may well recover once conditions return to normal. Many trees also have the ability to shed leaves as a means of protection against extreme weather.

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