Research reveals flowering secret

Breakthrough in understanding how plants flower in the correct season and place

Scientists have reported a breakthrough in understanding how plants ensure that flowers are formed at the right season and in the right place on the plant. In an article in the journal Science, the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich and the German Max Planck Institute show that a small molecule, made in the leaves, induces the formation of flowers at the growing tip of the plant. JIC project leader Phil Wigge said: “For the first time, we have a lead in the hunt for the molecule that induces plants to make flowers. It helps explain how plants can use, and combine, different cues from their environment to ensure they flower at the right season.” Researchers previously believed a chemical signal, florigen, travelled from the leaves to the site where flowers were initiated. But the new research identified a molecule, FT, which has all the characteristics of florigen and acts at the tips of growing shoots to switch on the flowering process. Scientists say the lessons have far-reaching consequences because the FT and FD genes are present throughout the plant kingdom, including in edible crops.

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