Eclipse 2024: Plant Reactions & Ways To Watch

In the 2017 eclipse, bees stopped buzzing and returned to their hives. Plants such as oxalis and mimosa opened and closed their leaves in response to the light and temperature.

The Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse douses Umatilla National Forest in shadow, rimming the horizon with a 360˚ sunset. Credit: NASA/Mara Johnson-Groh

OMonday, April 8, most of North America will have the chance to see the Moon pass in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse. And while this phenomenon is fascinating to humans, who understand the dynamics, how will light-dependent landscape plants react? And what about pollinating insects?

Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS

Previous research from the 2017 eclipse has shown that bees stop buzzing during totality and returned to their hives. Then, when the sunlight re-appeared, the bees seemed disoriented, according to a paper published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, reported ABC News.

Another study during the 2017 eclipse, conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, looked into whether plants have a set circadian rhythm (or internal clock) separate from the more immediate response of sensing changes in light. According to a article by the American Society of Agronomy, Tim Reinbott and colleagues at the University observed four plants with visible, but different, habits in terms of response to light and temperature: mimosa, oxalis, drought-stressed soybeans, and drought-stressed corn. Ultimately, the results were varied but interesting.

If you have an oxalis plant, see if its leaves or blooms close or open during the eclipse. Photo: AdobeStock/drutska

Since it was a hot day, the oxalis leaves were folded up to reduce sun exposure and retain water. As the eclipse started, the oxalis leaves opened up. After totality passed, the leaves closed again, but the plant didn’t fold its flowers as oxalis does at dusk. “This shows that they have a circadian rhythm and were not fooled by the change in light from from the eclipse. They only responded to the temperature change,” Reinbott said in the article. However, the soybeans behaved the same during totality as they do at sundown, showing they did not have a circadian rhythm.

Yet another study published in Scientific Reports in 2019 looked at how sagebrush, a woody and aromatic shrub, reacted to the 2017 eclipse. Researchers found that the drop in temperature and changes in vapor pressure deficit, messed with the sagebrush circadian clock, slowing down the process of photosynthesis and transpiration in the plant during the period of less sunlight, reported Fox5/KUSI.

“However, because the totality only lasted about two minutes long, the plant was not affected in the same way it typically would be during dusk or predawn hours, researchers concluded. Instead, the sudden return of sunlight once the moon passed ‘shocked’ the sagebrush, causing a spike in activity,” stated the article.

For the 2024 eclipse on Monday, as part of the NASA-funded Eclipse Soundscapes project, scientists at Southern Illinois University will be studying insects and birds in the region based on soundscapes made during the eclipse. NASA and other members of the public will also be collecting data to better understand how the total solar eclipse affects different ecosystems. Brent Pease, an assistant professor at South Illinois University’s School of Forestry and Horticulture, told ABC News that the project relies on citizen science reporting for the breadth of its data, with more than 200 participants in 64 counties in the Midwest.

Watch With NASA

eclipseBesides the Eclipse Soundscapes project, NASA is inviting the public to participate with in-person events, opportunities to do NASA science, and multiple ways to watch online. Millions of people along the path of totality – which stretches from Texas to Maine in the U.S. – will see a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely covers the Sun. Outside the path of totality, people across the contiguous U.S. will have a chance to see a partial solar eclipse, when the Moon covers part of the Sun. Learn how to safely view this celestial event.

NASA will host live coverage of the eclipse starting at 1 p.m. EDT. The agency’s eclipse coverage will include live views of the eclipse from across North America, special appearances by NASA experts, astronauts aboard the space station, and an inside look at NASA’s eclipse science experiments and watch parties across the country. NASA’s broadcast will last three hours, and features live locations from across the nation including the agency’s only center in the path of totality, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, as well as: Carbondale, IL; Dallas, TX; Houlton, ME; Indianapolis, IN; Kerrville, TX; Niagara Falls, NY; and Russellville, AK

The April 8, 2024, solar eclipse will be visible in the entire contiguous United States, weather permitting. People along the path of totality stretching from Texas to Maine will have the chance to see a total solar eclipse; outside this path, a partial solar eclipse will be visible. Credits: NASA

The NASA broadcast will stream on NASA+, air on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms including social media and the agency’s app. NASA also will host a watch party of the eclipse in Spanish starting at 1:30 p.m. on YouTube. NASA will additionally provide a no-commentary, telescope-only feed of the eclipse on NASA Television’s media channel and YouTube, starting at 1 p.m. and running for three hours.

Opening Photo Credit: NASA/Gopalswamy

For more interesting plant and science news, read:

Glow-In-The-Dark Firefly™ Petunias Will Light Gardens This Spring!

The Science Against No Mow May

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid, Of What Lurks In Lawns & Forests


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