Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura ‘Fascinator’

Here is the fourth entry in Taisha’s nastic movement series:

These photos of Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura ‘Fascinator’ (photo 1 | photo 2) were uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by Drew Avery@Flickr. They were taken in February of 2010 in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Much appreciated, Drew!

Maranta leuconeura is nyctinastic. This means it moves in response to diurnal changes in both light and temperature. The circadian rhythmic movement of the leaves goes from open and out during the day to closed and downward at night. The closed plant leaves are said to resemble praying hands, which is why this species is also called the prayer plant.

Maranta leuconeura is an herbaceous perennial native to Brazil. Some interesting plants native to Brazil in this series–one could imagine that the forests there must seem alive with all these moving plants! This rhizomatous evergreen has leaves with attractive markings, and small white flowers that are borne upon slender stalks. The cultivated selection ‘Fascinator’ has more colourful leaf patterns than the species. It also has more pronounced and regular midrib markings compared to a similar cultivar, ‘Erythroneura’.

Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura 'Fascinator'
Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura 'Fascinator'

5 responses to “Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura ‘Fascinator’”

  1. Julie

    I am growing some large seeds (several different kinds) that were found on a beach in the rain forest. They all do this type of movement. I am happy to know what it’s called.
    Why do the plants act this way? At night the leaves fold downward, as if closing up shop for the night.

  2. Doug

    Julie,
    I wondered that as well. A Google search didn’t turn up much. An article in The New Phytologist said, “Despite the long history of observing and studying this interesting phenomenon, the molecular basis and functional reason behind nyctinasty are still unknown.”
    Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3504090/
    Darwin studied this and published two books. He suggested that the behavior reduced the chance of chill or freezing, but that isn’t a risk for the plants that do this in tropical regions.
    There are likely multiple pathways to this behavior, though.
    One article, perhaps tongue in cheek, suggested that plants do this so that predators can more easily eat the animals that might feed on the plants!
    Link: http://biologicalexceptions.blogspot.com/2011/11/plants-that-dont-sleep-will-take-dirt.html

    1. Erin

      This is four years old now but I’ve read that the leaves fold up and reach up at night to collect dew and direct it towards the roots.

  3. Toinette Lippe

    I’ve grown this plant on my indoor window sill for many years and am always amused by its daily ups and downs.

  4. Tracey

    Know this as a “prayer plant”. It’s been growing in my house for years. Easy going and non-complainer as to light conditions or watering schedule. My kind of plant!

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