How do plants in shadow determine the direction of the sun?

Plants that are in the shadow of bigger plants extend their height to the sun in order to avoid the shadow and reach the sun. And they do this using a very special method.

Everybody knows that the first phase of plant growth begins with the bud coming out of the seed. This event, which some people consider as routine, is actually a great miracle. This is because the bud rising to the surface requires a great strength. The vastness of this strength is better understood when it is understood that emerging buds can crack the sides of walkways. The source of this tremendously effective power is the hydraulic pressure found in the cells that make up the plant. This pressure, required for plant growth, has the ability to stretch and widen the cell wall. Without this quality, there would be no cell growth in plants, and so the seed would never bud.

Another miraculous power of a bud trying to emerge out of the land, using its great strength, is that it always inclines up to the light and sun. A seed, which is in the dark of the ground, has no eyes, has never known the light and does not know in which direction the surface is in that dark environment, nonetheless finds its way, and always  the right way, is of course a great miracle. Almighty Allah reveals in one verse that He is the One Who creates the seed and grows the plant when it falls inside the soil:


“Allah is He Who splits the seed and kernel. He brings forth the living from the dead, and produces the dead out of the living. That is Allah, so how are you perverted?” (Surat al-An‘am, 95)

The Method a Plant Rising to the Surface Uses to Reach Light

It would be difficult for the plant to achieve photosynthesis when it is underneath an object that inhibits sunlight. This means that the plant cannot grow. Therefore, every bud that comes out of the soil changes its growth direction towards the source of light as soon as it reaches the surface. This light-sensitive direction- finding system found in plants is called “phototropism.”

When you place the plants in your home to a location that is dark or does not get the sunlight directly, you see that some time later these plants turn towards the sun. You witness that they extend the height of their leaves, and change the direction of their leaves as well, or that sometimes they become curled. A plant being able to detect the direction of sunlight as soon as it comes out from under the soil, or when it is placed somewhere dark is an important subject that needs to be considered. Plants are able to accomplish this process thanks to their flawless direction finding systems based on light and gravity. When we compare them to animals and human beings, plants have a greater advantage when it comes to sensing light because animals and human beings can only sense the light with their eyes. But the direction finding systems in plants are very keen. Therefore, they never confuse their direction. This system possessed by plants is of course the inspiration of Almighty Allah. Our Lord reveals this truth in the Qur'an as follows:


“Have you thought about what you cultivate? Is it you who make it germinate or are We the Germinator? If We wished We could have made it broken stubble.You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught:” (Surat al-Waqi‘a, 63-65)

Let’s examine how this direction finding system of plants works.

Plants’ Direction- Finding System for Light

Sunlight is the only source for the earth to be warmed in the most suitable way and for plants to achieve photosynthesis. The wavelengths and frequencies of sunlight is different from any other. The shortest wavelength is 1025 times smaller than the longest wavelength. A big part of this one unit of ray interval (reflected by the sun from the electromagnetic range of 1025) is called “visible light”. The rays just underneath, and just above this unit reach the earth as infrared and ultraviolet rays. Plants can sense and react to the existence of other plants with the help of infrared rays that we cannot see with the naked eye because the bigger plant that causes shadows emits these red rays and then reflects them outside. These plants, which stay in the shadow, sense these infrared rays, and essentially feel the plant that is putting them in shadow and thus extend themselves in order to reach some place that sees the sun and produce new leaves and seeds. If the plant still cannot reach the sun, then they will invariably  produce new seeds to have better conditions for growth in the next season.

Scientists have found that plants have a special genetic structure that enables them to grow and blossom in shadow. This gene, which controls that the stalks and leaves can come out of the shadow and so grow by reaching towards the sun, enables the hormone “auxin” the be synthesized. During auxin production, which is composed of three phases, plants work like a chemical laboratory to ease the first reaction and carry out a series of complex processes. For this purpose, they use various amino acids and produce an enzyme called “tryptophane aminotransferase”. So when the biggest light receptor (light-sensitive nerve) that ensures protection from shadow discovers the neighboring, plants, it synthesizes aminotransferase. This makes the auxin that leads to the plant’s body to grow, to increase with speed. In this way, the plant extends itself towards the sun by getting away from shadow.

A Plant With No Eyes Being Able to Detect Sun Rays is a Perfect Miracle of Creation

A seed that grows in the depths  of the soil always finding the right way to come out to the surface by expending  great effort, the plant that comes out to the surface directing itself towards the sun knowing that it needs light to achieve photosynthesis, the plant trying to extend itself toward the light by sensing infrared rays when there is a plant preventing it, even though it has no eyes, the plants synthesizing a hormone called “auxin” to grow and the fact that this process is carried out through very complex chemical reactions, are not the things an unconscious plant could do.

This intelligence, seen in every phase of plants’ life, is explicit evidence that they are created by Almighty Allah, the Owner of Superior Power. This truth is revealed in the verses as such:


“It is He who sends down water from the sky. From it you drink and from it come the shrubs among which you graze your herds. And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect.” (Surat an-Nahl, 10-11)

One of the most amazing systems in plants, which have a very important place in the ecosystem of the Earth, is their reaction mechanism. Plants, which have no mouth, eye or nervous system on the outside, can be even more sensitive than human beings, thanks to these reaction mechanisms.

2011-05-28 13:54:14
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