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Science  15 Feb 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5558, pp. 1195
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5558.1195d

In crowded situations, plants, like people, have to compete with their neighbors to get enough resources. Light that is reflected by plant leaves contains a higher proportion of the far-red wavelengths, and phytochromes enable a plant to discriminate between shade and white light. A plant that senses crowds might respond by growing taller and leggier or by flowering earlier, and the response can differ across various growing environments, such as shady forests or open fields.

Using a sample of more than 100 accessions, Botto and Smith show that Arabidopsis displays a range of shade-avoidance responses and that the predominant response to far-red light is accelerated flowering. The time to flower varied among populations collected from the same geographical region and was not correlated with latitude. The range of a second type of response, hypocotyl elongation, also was documented. The absence of a clear relation (either direct or inverse) between these responses suggests the existence of independently regulated signaling pathways that lie downstream from the phytochromes. — PJH

Plant Cell Environ.25, 53 (2002).

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