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What is Nyctinasty?

Why do Flowers Close at Night?

Why do flowers close at night nyctinasty


Simple definition:  The movement of leaves or petals in response to light; the closing of flowers at night. This may help to protect the pollen from dew.

I love learning about amazing things that happen right under my nose. Many of us have observed the way our dandelions are closed up tight in the morning and then the bloom opens up in the sunshine each day. But, have we taken the time to really understand how that happens and why it happens? Just recently I did a little research to find the answer to that question.  Now when I take note of my sleepy little flowers, I can appreciate the mechanism for this phenomenon: nyctinasty.

Poppy nyctinasty

Examples of flowers that open and close:

  • Tulip
  • Crocus
  • Dandelion
  • Poppy
  • Daisy

Fun fact – The leaves of some plants, like those of certain legumes, open and close as well.

 dandelion nyctinasty

Try This! Something to Observe

Find a patch of daisies or dandelions in your yard. Observe the flower at different times of the day. When are they opened up? When are they closed?

Advanced study: For an additional experiment, try covering a dandelion with a box to shut out the light. What do you think you will find when you take the box off the next day?

Taking time to notice these changes will help your child make a more intimate connection with the world around them. I guarantee you will look at dandelions differently after observing them up close!

Nyctinasty notebook page

If you’re an Ultimate or Journey level member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you have a custom notebook page for creating a nature journal entry for nyctinasty in your download library.

tulip nyctinasty

Additional Links:

Why do plants close their leaves at night? – Audio explanation of nyctinasty.

Flowers on the Move – Super simple explanation of nyctinasty.

List of Flowers That Close at Night – Here’s a list to get you started.


Outdoor Hour Challenges for Flowers That Close At Night


If you would like to purchase a membership to have access to all 21 of the ebooks here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you can click the button below to view the titles. In addition, members receive access to all 76 archived issues of the monthly nature study newsletter, and new monthly printables.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy




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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Spring Wildflowers

Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Dandelion Study @handbookofnaturestudy


Outdoor Hour Challenge

Wildflowers- Dandelions

From the archives and the Spring Nature Study ebook.

This week is going to be fabulous! We are going to be on a dandelion hunt with our children. This cheerful flower has so much to teach us as we look at the leaves, the flower shape, and the seeds. You can find these little beauties everywhere now that spring is bursting out all around us.

Use the ideas in this week’s challenge to dig into the Handbook of Nature Study lesson on dandelions. Create a record of your observations in your nature journal.

You can see our family’s dandelion study here: Dandelion Morning.

You can also give this challenge a try: Dandelion and Wildflower Photo Hunt

Outdoor Hour Challenge Wildflower Set 1 Ebook

How do you get the new Wildflower Nature Study ebook?

Members of the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey levels have access to the new ebook in their library. You need to click the “Members Area” button at the top of the website, sign into your account, and the ebook is there to download and save for your family to use when desired. If you don’t have a membership yet, I am offering a $5 off discount code that will be good towards your Ultimate Naturalist membership.

Discount Code: Wildflower5


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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Dandelion Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Dandelion Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Dandelion Study – Archive Challenge

This week we are going to start a dandelion study. This should be something that almost everyone can complete without too much trouble since dandelions are found just about everywhere! I have seen them in the desert, in the woodlands, in parks, in lawns…keep your eyes out!

This is one of my favorite flower studies. Make sure to read the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study before you go out on your dandelion hunt. There are lots of wonderful and simple ideas to study dandelions in this lesson and I encourage you to try a few to learn more about this interesting plant.

Additional Resources:

April 2014 Newsletter – You will find a dandelion related nature journal topper to use in your nature journal. All archived newsletters are available to all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

You can glimpse into one of our dandelion studies here: Dandelion Morning.


Spring Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

This challenge is found in the Spring Nature Study ebook that members will have in their Ultimate Naturalist Library! Download a copy and use the custom notebooking page for your nature journal. More information on this ebook is found here: Spring Nature Study Ebook (including a sample).

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy




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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Wildflowers/Dandelions

Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Dandelion Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge:

This week we are going to get started with a spring wildflower or dandelion nature study challenge! This is always a favorite study and I look forward to seeing how your family completes some of the ideas in the following challenges. As always, if you don’t have any wildflowers or dandelions, take a walk anyway and see what you can find or talk about the up-coming wildflower season to create some enthusiasm. See the ideas below for a dandelion hunt.

Printable Wildflower Photo Hunt Activity

Special Activity: Dandelion Hunt

This month’s newsletter includes a page of Nature Journal Toppers. One of the suggested activities outlines some ideas for observing a dandelion that you may find during your outdoor time and then creating a nature journal page with all your measurements and comparisons.

Getting Started Suggestion:

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #6. You can work on your nature table collection or pressed flower collection this week as part of your follow-up time. See the ideas in this challenge from the Getting Started ebook for more ideas and a custom notebooking page.

Note: You can find the Getting Started ebook in all levels of membership here at the Handbook of Nature Study.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

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5 Spring Nature Study Ideas


1. How about a spring cattail hunt? Find your own patch of cattails and complete some observations using the Handbook of Nature Study. There is even a free Seasonal Cattail Notebook Page to print!

2. Look for signs of spring in your part of the world. What better way to enjoy the early spring time outdoors? Use the suggestions in the challenge and then print the Signs of Spring notebook page for your nature journal.

3. One of the most popular “wildflower” challenges of all time is the Dandelion Challenge from the Spring Series! Everyone loves a good dandelion study and with this commonly found plant your family can enjoy a little flower study too!

4. Here is one that all of you gardeners will enjoy…earthworms! We love digging down into the fresh spring soil and that means lots of earthworms. My boys loved to go on an earthworm hunt while I pulled a few weeds in the garden boxes.

5. Everyone has weather….you can all take some early spring weather observations no matter if there is snow on the ground or you are experiencing rain showers or you have blue skies and white puffy clouds. Print a weather notebook page and have some fun outside recording your weather and observations.

There are lots more spring nature study ideas on the Spring Tab at the top of my blog. Pick one and enjoy a few minutes outdoors this week.

  Have you seen some signs of spring in your neighborhood?

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Early Spring Garden – Springing to Life

Garden coming to life collage
Lemon thyme, Oregano, Garlic chives, and Strawberry Blossoms

It is time for our early spring garden clean up where we start to tidy up the beds in anticipation of a new growing season. Mr. B and I spent a few hours in the garden trimming, weeding, raking, and enjoying the sights and smells of early spring.

Our front yard habitat is full of insects and flowers. The first of the season’s yarrow is blossoming and the plants look super healthy. We weren’t sure these would over-winter but they did beautifully…may add some more to fill in the spaces.

insect on rock  (1)

Hello little creature! These insects (some sort of beetle?) are showing their faces now that the rocks are warming up.

bee on lavender (1)

I love this image with my lavender and the bee! It seems like you are peering down into a whole different world. The lavender is alive with bees with their humming and buzzing. Go bees!

dandelions (2)

I know most of you real gardeners will shudder when I tell you that I keep part of my yard just for the dandelions. I love these happy yellow flowers and the bees agree with me too!

bee balm

The bee balm is springing to life in the side yard and we pruned the neighboring bushes back to allow some more sunlight. I look forward to seeing the red blooms of this flower in the summer.

flowering quince (2)

This is actually my neighbor’s flowering quince that is blooming. I am sharing it here because it has inspired me to plant a few of these in our yard for next spring’s color. Aren’t they gorgeous? I am actually wavering between this bush and the redbud….haven’t totally made up my mind yet.

So there is a little garden update from a sunny afternoon’s walk in the garden.

It is not too late to print and complete the First Day of Spring printable or complete the Spring Splendor Walk challenge. Join us!

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Fall Wildlfowers – Alternate to the Milkweed Study


Many areas do not have milkweed to observe right now and I have had requests for alternate flowers to study. So here are some ideas for an alternative to your More Nature Study #1 Milkweed Study.


I mentioned in the challenge that you can find several alternate flowers in the Handbook of Nature Study. Anna Botsford Comstock gives us some ideas and I suggested “check for other fall blossoming wildflowers to observe like: Jewel Weed (Lesson 134), Late blooming Goldenrod (Lesson 132), or Asters (Lesson 133). ”


I have been doing additional research and you can also look for mullein (Lesson 146), dandelions (Lesson 144), sunflowers (Lesson 159), and several flowers not found in the Handbook of Nature Study– gentians, yarrow, or chrysanthemum. Hope that helps your family to complete the #1Milkweed Study (alternate study-any fall blooming flower).

Dandelion up close
Mullein September
Mullein in my backyard right now…not very pretty.

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Dandelions Can Grow Two Feet Tall!

Really Tall Dandelion 2

I think we have all read in the Handbook of Nature Study that the dandelion can grow to be two feet or more in height. I had never seen a dandelion that tall but I took her word for it (page 532 in the HNS in the dandelion section).

Today, I saw a dandelion that was more than two feet tall! The photo above show the plant we found alongside our walking trail. I am holding the stem up with the blossom on top…..Kona wanted to be in the photo too. Yes, it was cold enough for a flannel shirt and it did sprinkle on us as we walked. I had on my new Keens though….Keen Newport Sandal (gargoyle and sap green).


Here are the blossoms up close.

Dandelion leaves

I took a photo of the leaves at the base so you can see that it is indeed a dandelion.

Purple Vetch

The purple vetch is really taking over the sides of the trail…my favorite color so beautiful and happy.

Purple Vetch and Little Yellow Flowers

It makes me happy anyway. The bees were loving it too.

So there you have it….two foot high dandelions!

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2011 Spring Series – Spring Wildflower Study – Dandelions

Our last official Outdoor Hour Challenge for the 2011 Spring Series has arrived. I can hardly believe it but we are going into the month of May next week! With May will come some changes to the Outdoor Hour Challenge, exciting changes for us all! I will be sharing my new ideas and directions for the Outdoor Hour Challenge on May 1, 2011.

4 11 Dandelions
In the meantime, take this week to enjoy hunting up some spring wildflowers and/or dandelions.

Here is a link to the Spring Wildflower Study- Dandelions.
Please make sure to click over and read all about how your family can study this common plant and be educated on the many things we can learn from this weed/wildflower.

You may also be interested in my Spring Nature Study Ebooks!

Spring Series Cover

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Our Dandelion Morning

Dandelion up close

As part of the Spring Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges, we spent a sunny morning looking for the tallest dandelion in our yard. We have quite a few this year, partly because we have left our “wild side” wild and partly because it is just a good year for dandelions.

Dandelions in the Lawn
I gave my boys a ruler and a camera as we went out the door. I challenged them to find the tallest dandelion they could see in our backyard. They knew just where to look and as our dog followed them around, they measured and took photos. I wandered around the yard looking at all the growing things and the number of bees we have in our flowers.

Kona in the weeds
They tried to convince me that the dog ate the biggest one. Our dog does love it when you blow the seeds and she will try to catch the seeds in her mouth as they fly around in the air. It is actually quite funny. She will also lay in the dandelions and eat the leaves.

Dandelion measuring
So here is the verdict. They found one that measured just at twelve inches high.

Dandelion nature journal
They brought a few flowers in to look at and I took the opportunity to draw a few things in my nature journal. I noticed in the evening that the dandelions that were in the vase had all closed up tightly. This morning in the sunshine they were open again.

Dandelion bracts
Another day this week we will go out early in the morning and observe to see if the flowers are closed up and if they open up later in the sunshine.

It was a fun study for all of us and it gave us a really good excuse to be outdoors on a school day.