Growing plant stems and shoots exhibit a variety of shapes that embody growth in response to various stimuli. Building on experimental observations, we provide a quantitative biophysical theory for these shapes by accounting for the inherent observed passive and active effects: (i) the active controllable growth response of the shoot in response to its orientation relative to gravity, (ii) proprioception, the shoot's growth response to its own observable current shape, and (iii) the passive elastic deflection of the shoot due to its own weight, which determines the current shape of the shoot. Our theory separates the sensed and actuated variables in a growing shoot and results in a morphospace diagram in terms of two dimensionless parameters representing a scaled local active gravitropic sensitivity, and a scaled passive elastic sag. Our computational results allow us to explain the variety of observed transient and steady morphologies with effective positive, negative and even oscillatory gravitropic behaviours, without the need for ad hoc complex spatio-temporal control strategies in terms of these parameters. More broadly, our theory is applicable to the growth of soft, floppy organs where sensing and actuation are dynamically coupled through growth processes via shape.
Electronic supplementary material is available at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3708364.
- Received January 1, 2017.
- Accepted February 21, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.