What Flower Closes at Night?

February 14, 2024

When we look at our world, the plant kingdom is bursting with color and activity. Curling vines climb tall trees, grasses wave in summer breezes, and flowers open to bask in the sun’s warming rays. But what happens when the sun sets and these flowers close up for the night?

The answer to this question lies in a behavior called nyctinasty, which is the circadian response of higher plants to the onset of darkness. This pattern of opening and closing may have a number of evolutionary advantages for the plant.

Many common wildflowers like daisies, dandelion and chicory display this behavior of nyctinasty. During the day, these flowers open wide to allow sunlight in and attract bees and butterflies. However, as the evening approaches these flowers slowly close up, folding their petals inwards to resemble a tiny daisy head. This helps to conserve water by preventing the loss of vital moisture as the flower goes into its restful sleep for the night.

Other flowers that close at night include the beautiful crocus, morning glory, tulip and the California Poppy. This behavior of nyctinasty is likely intended to protect the pollen from being disturbed by diurnal (daytime) insects that may snatch it up and possibly carry it away. Alternatively, this behavior could also serve to protect the pollen from nocturnal (nighttime) insects such as moths and bats.

Other examples of nyctinastic plants are the American white waterlily, the colorful purple hibiscus and the stunning magnolia tree. Keep an eye out for these plants in your garden or around your neighborhood and you might just be surprised by what they do when the light begins to fade.


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