Watching the bloom of a Morning Glory

A MORNING Glory flower blooms only once, and dies the same day. The flowers blossom in the morning and die by mid-afternoon, making it reputedly representative of the beautiful but fleeting nature of love.

Close-up of a Morning Glory in full bloom
Close-up of a Morning Glory in full bloom

However, the Morning Glory produces new flowers every day; and here, again, it is said that this represents the renewable nature of love.
I have always wanted to watch a Morning Glory bloom. Morning Glory is the common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family, Convolvulaceae.
My ‘better half’ has a dense thicket of Morning Glory flowers in her yard; green foliage with bright yellow flowers. And in my spare time of late, I have found it very gratifying to watch these plants in action.
From around mid-day until nightfall, and apparently throughout the night, the flowers look like closed up umbrellas; and I discovered that the Morning Glory does not necessarily wait until sunlight hits them: they open before dawn. At around 4:30am, they slowly unravel and burst into full bloom.
I found, too, that the flowers opened at pretty much the same time of day, give or take a few minutes. And I also found that there were different flowers opening every day; those that had opened on the previous day had died; their blossoming had been their last act before death.
It was, in effect, a continuous rhythm, or cycle if you will, of life and death every twenty-four hours.
Scientists say a combination of light and temperature signals causes the Morning Glory to open before dawn. The plants have biological clocks that trigger the flowers to open. Those clocks are so powerful that, once set by the natural day/night cycle, Morning Glory plants will open their flowers on cue even in a dark closet.
Then again, Morning Glory plants dilate in the morning, as water fills their veins. This vein-generated water action becomes pronounced as the day progresses and the flower is unable to maintain the water content, so it droops and withers as the morning progresses.
Morning Glory plants are pollinated by insects that are active early in the morning. And so, the scientists say, the plants evolved so that the flowers would be open at the time of day when their pollinators are active, and just before they start to wither and die.
Many flowers try another strategy: They open, and stay open until they are pollinated, then they die. For the Morning Glory, opening up early and catching the pollinators is a matter of survival. And judging from the growing size of the yellow-coloured thickets in my ‘better half’s’ yard, these very beautiful flowers have hit on the right strategy for propagating the species while providing a wonderful spectacle of nature at work.

(By Clifford Stanley)


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