Narrowed plumbing lets flower survive summer cold snaps | Science News

Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Narrowed plumbing lets flower survive summer cold snaps

Tiny pores, skinny pipes prevent ice from reaching alpine heather’s flowers

7:00am, September 23, 2016

CHILL OUT  Scotch heather weathers summer freezes by forming internal ice barriers that block ice crystals from spreading to its flowers.

A summertime cold snap can, quite literally, take the bloom off the rose. Not so for Scotch heather — and now scientists know why.

Thick cell walls and narrow plumbing in the alpine shrub’s stems stop deadly ice crystals from spreading to its fragile flowers during sudden summer freezes, researchers report September 15 in PLOS ONE. That lets the flowers survive and the plant make seeds even if temperatures dip below freezing.

Once ice crystals start to form inside of a plant, they can spread very quickly, says Gilbert Neuner, a botanist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria who led the study. Those sharp crystals can destroy plant cells — and flowers are particularly sensitive. So plants living in cold climes have developed strategies to confine ice damage to less harmful spots.

Neuner and his team used infrared imaging to measure heat given off by

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content