D: Yaël, most of the time I'm stuck in a small, windowless room and I can't even have plants in there.
Y: Why not, Don?
D: I tried, but my sunflowers died. I guess plants need sunlight, even more than I do.
Y: Don, it's just a matter of choosing the right plant. If you don't have much light in your office, the best kind of plant is one that comes from a habitat where there isn't much sunlight, and where temperatures are high and pretty constant throughout the year.
D: Oh yeah, and where's that? Definitely not the Midwest.
Y: Well, many tropical vines, like the philodendron, have to make do with little light until they reach the top of the forest canopy. That's why many indoor plants are tropical.
D: So how do they manage to survive?
Y: Simple. You know that chlorophyll gives plants their green color, right? Well, chlorophyll in a leaf is bundled in different kinds of proteins, one of which is a light- harvesting complex. When there's low light, the plant's leaves contain more of this complex. When there's more light, they produce less. That way, each leaf adapts to the light intensity available to it.
D: So why didn't my sunflowers live?Y: This ability to adapt to different degrees of light varies from species to species, and sunflowers just can't make the transition. What's more, when you bring a plant into your office, you have to give it time to adapt to the new light levels by making the transition gradual.