Design Principles of Plant Actuation

Michaela Eder, Ingo Burgert, Matthew J. Harrington, John WC Dunlop, Peter Fratzl

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Department of Biomaterials, Potsdam, Germany

Title: Design Principles of Plant Actuation


Plants are generally sessile and they need special strategies in order to generate movements for seed or pollen dispersal, (wind) load compensation or climbing. Movements can be performed either by the organism as a whole or be restricted to particular organs. Depending on the required function and the underlying deformation mechanism, the plant can generate movements with largely different speeds: eg. mulberry is able to release pollen within 25 µs, the Venus flytrap catches prey in 100 ms, ice plant seed capsules open in 1-2 min, pine cones open within hours and the re-orientation of plant stems or organs might take several years. Whereas fast movements are typically based on internal osmotic pressure and require an active metabolism, slower movements are often based on passive hydration from the environment and can be performed without metabolism. The aim of this talk is to give a brief overview about plant movements in general. The main focus will be laid on the architecture (design) of plant organs which perform hydro-responsive movements decoupled from any active metabolism. Such movements require a sophisticated hierarchical design of the plant material.

Contribution to the Workshop “Smart Solution from the Plant Kingdom”