botany: why flowers bloom in the spring, tra-la

The scientific basis for springtime is now better understood, thanks to a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding in Germany and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Reporting in the Feb. 13 Science, Federico Valverde and his colleagues explain the molecular mechanism by which plants flower in response to light. Conducting experiments on the small, flowering plant, Arabidopsis, they showed how day length and light quality affect Constans, a protein that promotes flowering. The researchers found that light stabilizes the protein, and that, in the dark, the protein is degraded. So, as the hours of daylight increase in the spring, more of the protein is maintained, until enough accumulates to activate the genes that trigger flowering.

This news brief appeared in the Discoveries column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 2/17/2004.
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