How Daily & Seasonal Cycles Affect Plants

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Plants live on a planet with days and seasons, and that affects their behavior. Learn about the daily and seasonal cycles of plants, and see how much you've learned with a quiz.

The Cycles of Plants

The earth is covered in plants. There were plants before there were ever humans, and before there were other animals. The plants on Earth evolved on Earth. And while those plants were evolving they were experiencing a 24 hour day, with dark and light. They were also experiencing seasons that varied across the 365 day year. So it shouldn't be surprising that plants have adapted themselves to live with the cycles.

After all, humans have done the same thing. We humans sleep when it's dark and are awake when it's light. We developed electric lights to help is in the winter. Plants might not be able to create gadgets, but the very way their internal chemistry works is affected by the daily and seasonal cycles of the earth.

How Daily Cycles Affect Plants

Plants create energy from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide gas in a process called photosynthesis. So the times of day when there is plenty of light has an effect on that photosynthesis. For example, plants release different chemicals depending on the time of day. When summer is approaching, the plant prepares itself to absorb the light and create energy. Photosynthesis also requires carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere. But at night, since it has no light and cannot photosynthesize, there's little point absorbing carbon dioxide gas either. Because of this, many plants close their leaf pores, called stomata, to reduce water loss during the night.

Stomata are openings on the bottom of leaves that let in carbon dioxide and close during the night
Stomata are openings on the bottom of leaves that let in carbon dioxide and close during the night

Some plants will close their flowers during the night for similar reasons, and plants use the length of day as a way of figuring out what time of year it is. When winter is approaching, they can tell is the days are getting shorter, and they can start to adapt to that.

Morning glory flowers close at night
Morning glory flowers close at night

How Seasonal Cycles Affect Plants

The seasonal cycles of plants are probably more well-known. As the days get shorter, some plants use this as a signal that it's time to change their behavior.

As winter is approaching, plants like trees will shed the leaves. This process is quite beautiful to humans, producing trees full of orange, red, and yellow leaves. Since there isn't a lot of light to absorb the cold winter, some plants have realized that it is more efficient to keep as much of the moisture as they can inside and wait until there is more sunlight again. So they pull the moisture from the leaves into the trunk, letting them dry out and fall.

In winter, many trees lose their leaves to conserve water
autumn tree leaves

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support 福建福彩网 天水市 永康市 成都市 商洛市 大庆市 镇江市 临夏市 阜新市 巴中市 萍乡市 崇州市 邓州市 平度市 河津市 台中市 衡水市 明光市 凤城市 吉林省 石首市 龙海市 黄石市 叶城市 都匀市 武穴市 朝阳市 青岛市 凤城市 葫芦岛市 仙桃市 合肥市 孝感市 邢台市 兴城市 平度市 利川市 洮南市 信阳市 常州市 宁国市 南阳市 徐州市 北宁市 邢台市 鹿泉市 池州市 北宁市 台中市 华阴市 延吉市 铁力市 兴城市 淮安市 汉川市 东阳市 焦作市 西安市 佛山市 潍坊市 甘肃省