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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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Our Early Spring Flowers: Winter Series #10

spring flowers march 10

Today is the warmest day we have had so far this year. It is the kind of day that calls you outside to sit and observe the growing things around you.

I answered the call and sat in the backyard in the sun and soaked in the warmth from the sun, the sounds of birds from every direction, the smells of the garden which were mostly alyssum and lavender, and the colors of the plants, trees, and sky. A hummingbird even buzzed very close to my head just because I imagine he was curious to get a closer look at me.

I have been trying to notice the early spring flowers in our yard and I made note of how others in my life have been noting the blossoms as well. We completed this tour of the garden as part of our Winter Series Challenge #10.

Two blooming tulips
Mr. A came inside yesterday to get me because he noticed that my tulips are blooming on the sunny side of the house. He didn’t know there were tulips planted there so he was surprised. My husband had picked up a inexpensive bag of bulbs from Home Depot and planted them here where we have some daffodils and jonquils already. What a burst of color!

Jonquils in the strawberry bed
Amanda commented on how sweet the jonquils smelled in the vase on the back of the kitchen sink. I love the way I forget where all my bulbs are hiding and it surprises me when they pop up and bloom in unexpected places. These are in the middle of Mr. A’s strawberry bed.

Sideview of Daffodils
Many people I talked to this weekend were talking about the show of daffodils everywhere this week. If you haven’t done a study of the daffodil using the Handbook of Nature Study, I highly recommend it. We completed our study in 2008 and you can read about it HERE.

Grape Hyacinths and dandelions
Mr. A was worried he would cut the grape hyacinths down when he mowed the lawn. Someone planted these bulbs a very long time ago and every year I enjoy them popping up in the front lawn. The purple of the hyacinths and the yellow of the dandelion makes a beautiful picture.

Bulbs in pots
These bulbs are living in containers on my back deck. Every year I enjoy their blooms and then plant annuals over the top once they die back. I think these are daffodils and tulips.

Day lily and the Rabbit
The bulbs here that have sprouted up are not spring blooming but they are day lilies that will bloom later in the summer. I love the way the green leaves are curling around the rabbit and you can see my primroses in the background.

Daylily and the roadrunner
This day lily has a wonderful shape as it grows and I love the way the light was illuminating the edges. You can see my road runner yard art that my husband made me a few years ago in the background. He was inspired by a road runner we saw on a trip.

Tulips still in the bud
One last spot with bulbs to share this time. This bed of tulips I planted two falls ago and it is a complete bed of shades of purple. I am anxiously awaiting its blooms. There is a petunia blooming in the foreground.

Planting spring bulbs is something that comes with a promise. You make the effort to plant and you receive a gift back in the spring with blooming flowers with colors to refresh you after a long winter’s nap. Our think our Creator knew we would need something to look forward to during those cold winter days.

I have to note that I saw California poppies and lupine blooming alongside the freeway today. it is my absolute favorite color combination at this time of year…orange, purple, and green. It is a feast for the eyes.

I look forward to reading everyone else’s entries with their early spring flowers.


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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Winter Series #10 Early Spring Bulbs

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Winter Series Ebook
Early Spring Flowers

“The tulips blossom early, because they have food stored in the bulbs the year before, ready to use early in the spring….These observations may be made upon tulips in school gardens or bouquets.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 554

Inside Preparation Work:
This challenge is to learn a few things about spring flowers and then observe some up close.

Suggested sections in the Handbook of Nature Study:

  • The Crocus: pages 547-549 (make sure to note that it has corms, not bulbs)
  • The Daffodils and their Relatives: pages 549-552
  • The Tulip: pages 552-555

If you can look at real bulbs and observe and sketch them in your nature journal, take time to discuss and compare a bulb to a seed.

Outdoor Hour Time:
Spend your outdoor hour time this week looking for signs of spring bulbs or flowers. If you planted some bulbs in the fall, take a look for any new growth. You may have neighbors that have bulbs sprouting and blooming or there may be some at a near-by park. Many flower nurseries will have blossoming bulbs you can purchase and observe as well.

Follow Up Time:
Use a few of the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study (pages 548, 551, and 555) to study your spring flowering bulbs. You can record your observations on the notebook page from the Winter Nature Study ebook, a blank notebook page from the blog sidebar, or in your own nature journal.

Journal Suggestions:

  • Sketch the shape of your flower and record the number of petals.
  • Look for the different flower parts: stigma, petal, sepal, anther, stem, leaves. (See page 548, 551, and 554 of the Handbook for diagrams.)
  • Observe the flower’s colors.
  • Describe the stem’s shape and compare it to other flowers.
  • Study and sketch a flower bulb.
  • Watercolor drawings can be made of any of your early spring flowers.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Tour of My Early Spring Garden Today

Tulips Under the Birdbath
I thought you might like a little tour of my early spring garden since the rain stopped last night and the sun is out this morning. Everything is a little damp from the rain still.

The tulips are all up and promising to give a colorful display very soon. This was my purple garden last year but I added a few new tulip colors so it will be a surprise when they bloom.

Mystery Flower-Orange
I honestly can’t remember this flower from last year, but it is bursting with oranges and greens in the far corner of the garden.

There is an explosion of primroses under my other birdbath. These were transplanted from Amanda’s garden box last year and they love this spot in the garden.

Grape Hyacinths
Ahhhh….this means it really is almost spring here in our neck of the woods. The grape hyacinths are blooming in all their purple glory. Now if I can just keep my boys from mowing them down along with the grass.

Chick Weed
Little tiny flowers…can’t remember the name of this one….are blooming if you keep your eyes focused for the pretty periwinkle color.

My daffodil patch is ever so close to blooming and since it is by my mailbox, I can see it every day as I collect the mail.

Everyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows that I have a “thing” for lavender. This year our plants promise to give us a beautiful show of color and fragrance. The hummingbirds have already spotted these blooms and in the early morning I have seen them out here sipping at the flowers.

Broccoli Flowers
I learned something this year quite by chance. I left my broccoli plants in the ground and in a few pots all winter and this is what happened….beautiful yellow flowers. The hummingbirds have been in these blooms as well. I think next year I will leave a whole bunch of broccoli plants in the ground because they make really pretty blooming plants.

Spring Green Moss
I would call this a true *spring green*. The moss growing between the bricks in my little arbor is thick and soft.

Scrub Jay nest in our Magnolia Tree
We have a new development in the front yard. We noticed today that the Scrub jays are building another nest in our magnolia tree. They fly back and forth with little twigs….hundreds of times over the course of the day so far. They are very busy. If they succeed in building their nest, this will be the third year in a row in this particular tree.

Hope you enjoyed my little tour and if it is cold and you are having winter weather today, I hope it cheered you up.

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Tulips in the Garden: Wednesday Flower Study #3=Fresh Faces

Do you remember last fall when I was busy planting bulbs and sharing the process? I am now reaping the benefits of our labor….in the form of gorgeous tulips.

Breathtaking flowers that are amazing in color and shape. It makes me want to plant more!

We took the opportunity to do a little nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.

“There are a great many varieties of tulips, and their brilliant colors make our gardens gorgeous in early spring….Water-coloring drawings may be used as helps in studying the tulip. The red varieties are best for beginning the study, and then follow with the other colors; note differences.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 553 and 555

We looked at all the parts of the tulip and here is a good shot of the pollen on the inside of the petals. We also looked at tulips just opening and noted the shapes. We looked at the sepals and petals, the buds, and the open flower. We are going to wait until the petals fall off and then observe the seed pod. The HNS suggests dissecting the seed pod and making observations then.

We sketched and painted in our nature journals to remember our first bloom of tulips in this part of the garden. Previously, someone asked me about painting directly into the journal and it has never been a problem for us. We just leave the page open for a little while and it dries very nicely. I do not paint on back to back sides though.

So my best advice is to paint only on one side and let it sit long enough to dry.

One last tulip photo….

Creamy, dreamy white tulip.

Lurking in our garden at all times is the fearless Cocoa. This is her “Ferdinand the Bull” imitation….resting among the chickweed and the alyssum. Photo taken by my middle son….thanks Mr. A.

So that concludes our tulip study for this week. We now have three flowers completed and are on track to study poppies next week.

Now it is your turn. Pick a flower from the Handbook of Nature Study or from your garden and make your own flower study. You do not need to pick tulips….pick something you have in your area. Here is the first entry in this series to explain more about Wednesday Flower Study day.