But baby it’s not that cold outside…

By Charlie Whittaker

We all get a bit chilly around Christmas, but unfortunately the plants amongst us don’t have the luxury of being able to up-root, put on a jumper and snuggle up by the fireside. So are plants condemned to wither and perish, rooted in the cold, freezing their (metaphorical) socks off under a covering of snow?

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Credit: Sakaori

The answer is unequivocally no. Some plants are able to engage in a process called thermogenesis, by which a vast amount of heat gets produced through metabolic processes such as respiration. Using an alternative pathway, the majority of the energy released by respiration gets emitted as heat, as opposed to being converted to chemical energy.

Being warm has its benefits. In areas that see snowfall during the winter, the process of thermogenesis (which can raise the plant’s temperature by up to 30C!) helps to melt the snow covering the plant. This allows the plant to start photosynthesizing earlier than its competitors and, in the case of seedlings, germinate and sprout earlier than other plants — giving them a competitive advantage!

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