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Circumnutation observed without a significant gravitational force in spaceflight

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Science  13 Jul 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4658, pp. 230-232
DOI: 10.1126/science.11540799


For over half a century and especially since the 1960's a number of plant physiologists, seeking to explain the impressively ubiquitous mechanism that drives and regulates circumnutation in all growing plant organs, have been unable to agree on whether the differential growth process that leads to circumnutational oscillations is gravity dependent. There has been fairly general agreement that the question might be answered, if test plants could be deprived of all significant gravitational stimuli as would be possible in the near weightlessness or free fall environment of satellite orbit. Such an experiment was carried out during the Spacelab 1 mission. Circumnutational oscillations were observed which demonstrated that a protracted input of gravitational information from the environment was not required for initiation or maintenance of circumnutation in sunflower hypocotyls.