McWILLIAMS FARM

Facing the east in the morning, these sunflowers will turn their heads to follow the light and face west by dusk. The mechanism by which the flower moves is called heliotropism or phototropism. The evolutionary trait is thought by some to have come about so that pollinators would be more attracted to blooms warmed by the sun, or to take better advantage of the light needed for photosynthesis, the use of light to convert carbon dioxide and water into food. The movement itself is caused by specialized cells in the plant stem that pump potassium ions into some cells facing the light, causing them to become rigid, while the cells on the shadow side elongate, according to a scientific paper about the biology of sunflowers and solar tracking, published in the July 2014 Plant Science journal. About 12 acres of sunflowers were planted this season at the McWilliams farm off of County Road 6920 southwest of West Plains. The flowers were planted in preparation for the opening of the pumpkin patch. McWilliams said weather conditions prompted him to plant sunflowers rather than corn this year to be used as a maze.

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