Few people realize that some plants can actually thermo-regulate themselves. They behave as if they were mammals by altering heat production to keep their temperatures surprisingly constant.

Plants with the ability to warm themselves include philodendron, Jack in the Pulpit, Skunk Cabbage and many members of the Lily family. Experiments on some species of philodendron found their temperatures soared as high as 38 degrees Celsius when the environmental temperature was still a cool 4 degrees. When the surrounding temperature increased, their rate of heat production decreased.

Plants have no fur, no feathers, no nervous system, no muscles, blood or brain. Apparently though, they do have their own thermostats. The source of heat is respiration. The process that oxidizes food stuffs to provide energy.

In addition to thermo-regulation, the reason certain plants heat themselves seems to be connected with the pollination process. Heat vaporises the scents that attract insects that will pollinate the plant.  For example, on the day the Voodoo Lily flowers, the temperature can exceed surrounding air temperature by up to 15 degrees Celsius. The heat generated is enough to vaporise some of the plant’s amines and ammonia,causing an unpleasant odour.

So next time your plant looks under the weather, try taking its temperature!

Bob