Trying to physically handle a seemingly innocent plant just to find out it’s covered in thorns can be quite the frustrating (and painful) experience! If you’ve gone through that before, it makes sense for you to want to know whether certain plants have thorns or not before you go about handling them. Daisies don’t appear to have any thorns – are they perhaps hidden somewhere?
Daisies don’t have thorns. Thorns are a structural adaptation many plants have to protect themselves against harmful insects, dangerous predators, and other environmental threats. Daisies need insects for pollination and close up at night to protect their internals from danger.
In the remainder of this article, we’ll learn more about thorns and their purpose, why daisies don’t have thorns, and how they protect themselves without thorns. Stay tuned.
The Importance of Thorns
When understanding why daisies don’t have thorns, it’s helpful to consider why plants even need thorns in the first place. When we think of thorns, the first thing that comes to mind is the cactus plant.
One of the key reasons a cactus has thorns is to help it preserve water. However, this usage of thorns, for the most part, is exclusive to cacti and other desert plants.
In the vast majority of plants, the primary reason for the existence of thorns is protection against herbivorous or omnivorous predators who may want to feed on the plant. Carnivorous animals who don’t intend to feed on the plant but may trample or cause damage to it unintentionally are also deterred from getting too close.
Thorns are pretty good at what they do. Most animals avoid thorny plants due to the difficulty of eating them without hurting their own mouths. Only with specific adaptations, such as camels’ leathered tongues, can interested animals bypass the extreme protection thorns provide.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that thorns are effective in providing protection against undesirable insects too. Unfortunately, in repelling insects, thorns may also compromise accessibility to potential pollinators.
Why Daisies Don’t Have Thorns
If thorns are so important, then how come daisies don’t have them? How come all plants don’t have them?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer. Simply put, most flowers are not suitable candidates for thorns. One of the more obvious reasons for this is their size.
Defensive adaptations such as thorns are warranted by very specific circumstances. It’s likely the case that daisies either don’t need thorns to protect themself or having thorns wouldn’t offer much protection to daisies anyway – especially since the flimsy structure of daisies can’t support sturdy thorns effectively.
If you’re familiar with flowers, you might be thinking about roses right now. Roses have thorns, right? Well, not quite. Roses have prickles, not thorns. The two are markedly different.
However, it’s true that prickles protect the flower from harmful insects and deter smaller herbivorous animals, such as rabbits, from consuming roses. Unfortunately, these tiny prickles can’t completely dissuade animals from consuming the rose, so they’re not quite effective, especially against larger animals such as deers.
Deers and rabbits are two animals that are infamous for their tendency to feed on flowers, including roses and daisies.
Also, in understanding why daisies (and most flowers) don’t have thorns (or prickles), it can be helpful to consider that a defensive structure like thorns doesn’t come free of charge. Plants have to expend energy and resources to build and maintain their thorns – energy is precious for all life forms.
In the case of daisies, if the reward for having thorns is so minor that it’s negligible, then it doesn’t make sense for the plant to expend its energy and resources this way. It would rather use these resources to promote other factors that improve its survival in the long run, such as the production of seeds.
Regarding seed production, daisies are one of the fastest reproducing plant species out there. They can infest an area of land within years if left to their own devices. Since they reproduce so fast, they aren’t really at risk of endangerment, even if they get gobbled up by predators more frequently than other plants.
How Daisies Protect Themselves
If daisies don’t have thorns, how do they defend themselves against predators and insects? They must have some form of protection, right?
The answer is yes. Yes, they do. And this is how they keep themselves safe:
Daisies Close Up At Nightfall
Daisies exhibit a behavior called nyctinasty. That’s the technical term for when plants close up at night, and if you’ve ever been around daisies at nighttime, you’ll know that they close shut as soon as the sun sets.
If this has piqued your interest and made you want to learn more about why daisies close up at night, I highly recommend you check out this interesting read: Why Do Daisies Close at Night? Simple Explanation
Essentially, closing up at night protects the insides of the daisies’ upper petals, their reproductive organs plus precious pollen and nectar located on the central flower. They simultaneously expose their under petals.
Closing up at night prevents nighttime insects from stealing the daisies’ nectar. Besides, the insects are unlikely to end up pollinating the plant despite consuming the nectar. These insects are commonly referred to as pollen thieves or nectar robbers.
Apart from closing every night, daisies also close up when they expect rainfall. Interestingly, daisies are one of the more famous natural indicators of impending rainfall. They do this because they need to secure their pollen from excessive exposure to water. If pollen gets wet, it loses its ability to be transported easily, be it via the air or through a pollinating insect.
Daisies Camouflage Themselves
If you doubt the effectiveness of this technique as a physical defense against animals, then you’re correct. Whether curled up or not, flimsy flower petals stand no chance against even the smallest of land animals interested in consuming the daisy.
The real protection comes in the form of camouflage. Research has shown that the under petals that come up when daisies close take on a suitable color to make it less likely that predators will spot the daisy.
Of course, there are limitations with camouflage as a defensive mechanism as well. For one, if spotted, daisies are doomed since they haven’t invested in physical protection. Secondly, as is apparent, this mechanism is only beneficial during the nighttime – daisies are fully open during sunlight hours.
Common predators such as deer and rabbits are out and about in the wild during the day. Fortunately, they typically don’t venture into cities and avoid being in close proximity to humans when it’s still bright outside.
They Stop Emitting Their Scent
When daisies close up, they also stop releasing their signature scent into the air. This eliminates the possibility that they will be identified via their scent. This combined with the earlier mentioned factors make it less likely that a predator will end up spotting daisies at nighttime.
Handling Daisies Barehanded
So if daisies don’t have any thorns, is it safe to make contact with them barehanded?
Handling daisies without protective gloves won’t cut your skin or hurt you. They are flimsy and don’t have sharp edges. Still, I recommend you wear gloves; when you touch garden plants or soil, you may encounter insects, parasites, disease-causing bacteria, and fungi. Tetanus is also a notable risk if you get cut by, for example, an unexpectedly sharp stone.
If you will be handling daisies exclusively and don’t really want to bother looking for and wearing your gardening gloves, I suppose it’s okay to use your bare hands. Just take extra care not to touch anything sharp or poisonous.
Daisies don’t have thorns. While thorns are an effective defense against animals and insects, they are typically not seen in flowers. Even the famous rose does not have thorns – it has prickles.
Instead of relying on thorns for self-defense, which is likely inefficient for the daisy, it utilizes a behavior called nyctinasty to its benefit. According to research, closing up at night makes the daisy harder to spot by potential threats. It also protects the precious pollen inside pollen from pollen thieves and rainfall.
Handling daisies barehanded goes against best gardening practices but is generally safe.