Plants and animals perceive light in different ways. Light supplements our vision and helps us see things around us. Furthermore, humans can only see the light that falls in the visible region. Plants, on the other hand, have a much broader sense of light.

Let’s begin with the big question, can plants see?

In essence, they can. Plants can differentiate between different types of light. They know if they are under the shade of another plant. Their sense of vision is not as advanced as humans, so no, they probably can’t differentiate between a bat and a ball. However, they have over 13 photoreceptors (cells that respond to light) which allow them to perceive UV light (UVR8), blue light (Cryptochrome), and other types of light.

Various photoreceptors in plants
Various photoreceptors in plants

So far, we’ve established that plants are more sensitive to light than animals. In saying that, their nature of being sessile requires them to “see” in a way. Even though they don’t have physical eyes, they need to be aware of their surroundings. How do they do this? Charles Darwin, who was most associated with the theory of evolution, worked with them for nearly 20-30 years of life. He performed experiments and provided enough evidence to back up the fact that the tip of the leaves consists of the part that senses light.

Plants, Red Light, and Far Light

First off, let’s talk about what far-red light is. It is visible light that lies in the region between 710 and 850nm. When does a plant encounter far-red light? Some of the instances include: during sunrise, sunset or when it’s in the shade of another plant. What’s important to understand here is that they depend on the duration of the night and not of the day. The reaction of plants to red and far-red light can be known by the function of phytochrome as a light-activated switch.

Plants require light for photosynthesis and seedling development. These are their most fundamental functions. There are different properties of plants that grow in light (photomorphogenesis) and those that grow in the dark (skotomorphogenesis).

In the simplest terms, a plant needs its light. It’ll grow towards it, even if you deprive it so watch out! Interested in more?

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