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How plant ‘muscles’ fold up a mimosa leaf fast

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Call them plant motors. Or plant muscles. Tiny bulges of specialized cells in a mimosa plant can fold its feathery leaflets together in seconds, then relax — and do it again.

A new look at these bulges on the Mimosa pudica plant has revealed more details of how a leaf manages its unusually fast folding, says biomechanist David Sleboda of the University of California, Irvine. “I think that these particular organs are really cool because their motion is reversible,” he says. “[W]hen people see plant motion that is reversible, it feels much more similar to animal motion.”

Scientists have already worked out the basic chemistry that drives a little mimosa motor, or pulvinus, he and colleagues write in a paper slated for the Feb. 6 Current Biology. When a deer hoof or something else scary jostles a leaf, potassium and…

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