The earth teems with biodiversity, especially in the plant kingdom. Curling vines climb tall trees. Fields of grasses wave in summer breezes. Flowers close at night and open to face the sun’s warm rays.
In this article, we’ll discuss varieties of flowers that close at night. First off, consider yourself lucky to witness a flower closing when it gets dark outside. Not all flowers behave in this way. Most actually remain open for the duration of their life cycle.
If you’re in North America, you may be able to plant some of them as decoration in your backyard or garden. They often do well in containers too. Keep reading to learn about these plants’ scientific names, habitat, and the way they grow.
Why do some flowers close at night?
Why do some flowers do this and not others? There are many reasons. The practice of opening during the day and closing up at night is called nyctinasty.
Flowers and pollinators have a distinct dance that spans millions of years and reciprocal adaptation. Flowers developed specific pollen delivery structures to accommodate different pollinators. The pollinators, in turn, became more and more specialized to get as much nectar as possible.
Diurnal pollinators include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds. Nocturnal pollinators are bats, moths, and many other insect species. Flowers that close at night are effectively cutting off any pollinator access during the evening hours.
This means that their pollinators are active only during the day. There’s no point in keeping precious pollen exposed during the night when nothing will pollinate it.
Furthermore, the nighttime may have risks that reduce the fertility of the flower if it stays open. Things like heavy dew, rain, and frost are all risk factors that could disturb the pollen.
14 Flowers that Close at Night
Now that we know why some flowers close, let’s learn about the flowers that have nyctinastic patterns. You’ll learn about the mechanisms by which they close their petals, not to mention where they grow and what their pollinators are.
1. Japanese Morning Glory
Scientific Name: Ipomoea nil
The Japanese morning glory is named for its open cup-shaped blossom that blooms right as the morning brightens. Unlike its name implies, the plant is not from Japan. Instead, it evolved in Central America’s steaming tropical jungles.
This flower’s primary pollinator are bees. Morning glories are extremely tenacious and can be invasive in some environments. Places like the Galapagos Islands and the Hawaiian Islands have had campaigns on removing invasive morning glory.
It crowds out other native plants that are not as competitive.
Scientific Name: Hemerocallis spp.
Daylilies have the recognizable lily shape and silhouette. Daylilies are the bloom of the daylily plant, which is perennial, unlike most of the plants on this list. They get their name because the flowers only last one day.
Even though daylilies wilt at night and do not reopen in the morning, we’ve included them on this list because the blooms do not stay open during the night; they wilt even though they could physically last until the next morning.
Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale
The common lawn weed is actually a biological wonder! There are many species of dandelion, but today’s focus is on the most common species in the United States. Almost every part of this plant is edible, including the roots, stems, and even the yellow flower itself.
Insects are the primary pollinators of dandelions. They close slightly at night because most insects rely on visual cues to find the flowers; and since there’s no light, it’s harder to see the blooms. Temperature increases are what triggers them to open again in the morning.
Scientific Name: Tulipa spp.
We are more familiar with the silhouette of a slightly-opened tulip, not the fully-blown bloom of a mature flower. In the wild, tulips close their petals at night. This isn’t due to consciousness of circadian rhythm. Instead, it’s a result of different rates of growth in parts of the petals.
In the morning, the cells on the inside of the petal grow quickly, forcing the flower open. After things begin to cool down, the outer petal cells grow quicker, forcing the flower closed. Each of the 75 tulip species exhibits this behavior to some degree.
Scientific Name: Crocus spp.
Crocuses are valuable plants, considered precious because of their beauty, use in dyeing fabric, and their ability to produce saffron, a spice that is still rare today. Most crocuses are sensitive to the day and night cycle, a phenomenon visible in the way their blooms open and close depending on what time of day it is.
The crocus closes at night to preserve precious pollen from being destroyed or knocked out of the flower. This plant’s primary pollinator, the bumblebee, isn’t out at night, so it’s a successful self-preservation method.
6. California Poppy
Scientific Name: Eschscholzia californica
California poppies grace the largest continental state in America with blooms every spring. Compared to their slender stems, poppies are huge goblet-shaped flowers that bloom in shades of red, orange, and yellow. They are sensitive to sunlight because they are pollinated by insects like beetles, bees, and bumblebees.
Closing at night conserves the delicate stamens inside the flower. These stamens are coated with pollen that would easily drip off if it was covered in dew or rainwater.
7. Easter Cactus
Scientific Name: Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri
If you have a few houseplants, chances are you have an easter cactus. These cactuses have a unique look, are easy to care for, and will surprise you with colorful blooms. Another secret to the Easter cactus is how its blooms open and close regularly.
Easter cactus’ flowers are durable and long-lasting – up to three weeks. Because this plant is adapted to hot, dry climates, its blooms close to conserve water and preserve the pollen inside.
8. American White Waterlily
Scientific Name: Nymphaea odorata
Can anything be more beautiful than a slowly opening waterlily at dawn? These white-petaled, yellow-centered water flowers have been memorialized in paintings fever for centuries. Spot them in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and the Great Lakes regions.
American white waterlilies are aquatic plants that grow on the surface of ponds and the edges of quiet lakes. Flowers are interspersed between lily pads.
The flower doesn’t stay open all day; it has a shorter time window than that. They are open only from dawn until noon. After that, they close until the next morning.
9. Magnolia Tree
Scientific Name: Magnolia grandiflora
The magnolia tree is the only tree on today’s list of flowers that close at night. Evolutionarily speaking, magnolias are some of the oldest plants living today. They are believed to have originated around 95 million years ago.
The flowers are heavy and white with thick, leathery petals. They open wide and flat during the day, emblematic of a water lily. At night, they close up into a loose rose-like bloom.
It’s fascinating to note that the robust petals serve a purpose – to hold up the beetles that pollinate magnolia flowers.
Scientific Name: Hibiscus syriacus
For some of us, just the word ‘hibiscus’ invokes visions of a tropical island and a fruity, relaxing scent. Some grow well in colder climates – one such plant is the hardy hibiscus. They offer fragrant blooms and fluffy, colorful flowers. They are pollinated by many types of insects, including bumblebees and hummingbirds.
Like tulips, the cells in hibiscus flowers’ petals grow at different rates. The outer cells grow faster at night, so the blooms close. During the day, the inside edge petal cells grow faster, so the flower opens.
Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
Bloodroot flowers look very similar to magnolia and waterlily flowers. However, their location is entirely different. The bloodroot plant grows directly from the forest floor in a small stem with just a few leaves.
As rhizomes, they are adaptable plants that can grow in low-nutrient soil. Flowers from the bloodroot plant last only a few days.
They close up when there is little light – that means either nighttime or when clouds cover up the sun. Bloodroot is native to the eastern United States.
12. African Daisy
Scientific Name: Gazania rigens
The African daisy is a daisy-like flower that originates from South Africa. While this flower isn’t a relative of the daisy, its blooms look similar enough that it earned the ‘daisy’ title. African daisies bloom throughout the spring and summer.
They’re adapted to warmer climates like Southern California, the Gulf Coast, and Florida. It’s important that they have well-drained soil. They’re great to plant in a garden because they’re low maintenance and return each year.
13. Purple Winecup
Scientific Name: Callirhoe involucrata
Purple winecup looks much like its name describes. The flower is small, purple, and cup-shaped. They grow in vast mats that can measure up to three feet wide and a foot thick.
The foliage has great visual interest. If you want to plant purple winecup in your backyard, make sure you set clear borders in your garden beds! The flowers of purple winecup close and open depending on light from the sun.
Once they’re pollinated, the flowers don’t open again. Look for it in the Great Plains region of the United States.
14. Yellow sundrops
Scientific Name: Calylophus serrulatus
Yellow sundrops are wildflowers recognized by their bright yellow petals and serrated leaves. These hardy plants are typically found in open, sunny environments like prairies and meadows. They display diurnal behavior, opening their blossoms during the day to entice pollinators such as bees and butterflies.