Do Plants generate heat???

taguebw at taguebw at
Mon Apr 27 10:22:18 EST 1998

In article <35448574.D1B at>, briank at wrote:

> Hi People,
> I recently had a discussion with a Master Gardener friend, who tells me
> that plants generate heat, not necessarily as much as a human, but
> definitely the metabolic processes involved in respiration generated
> some minor degree of heat.
> I have always understood that every cell in any plant is at the same
> temperature as the surrounding enviornment.  Could someone please tell
> me (email or on this ng) if plants indeed generate heat??
> Any replies are very much appreciated, thank you for your time.
> ..brian kruschel...(Air Quality scientist who is over his head here)

Brian --

There's really two questions here. One concerns producing heat; the other
concerns maintaining body temperature above ambient.

All organisms produce heat. It is usually a result of the inefficiency of
extracting usable energy (ATP) from foodstuffs (respiration). That's why
the middle of your compost pile gets hot -- all of those microorganisms
decomposing organic matter throw off a lot of heat.

Plant cell temperature *is* essentially the same as that of the
environment; that is, plants do not maintain there body temperature over
ambient the way that warm-blooded animals do. In fact, animals use some of
the heat produced due to the inefficiency of respiration to keep their
body temperature elevated. Plants simply dissipate the heat to the

Now some plants *do* produce excessive amounts of heat for physiological
reasons. Voodoo lilies heat up their flower parts to vaporize chemicals
that act as attractants for pollinators. Skunk cabbage can actually melt
the snow around it and expose it's flowers. These plants can uncouple the
metabolism of sugars from the production of ATP, resulting in more heat

My 2 electrons


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