Burn, water, burn

Researchers put a bit of old folk wisdom to the test by investigating whether water droplets on the top of leaves actually can focus the sun’s rays and burn them. The result? Score one for folk wisdom, old wives and pure luck.

For years, that line of logic has been why many gardeners advise against watering plants at midday, when the sunlight is at its fiercest. And not laziest. Totally, not laziest. However, there’d never been any scientific basis for this assertion. Until now. Biophysicist Gabor Horvath and his team at Hungary’s Eotvos University have now set out to determine the validity of this notion both through direct experimentation and computer modeling.

They discovered that, depending on the type of leaf, it really was possible for water droplets to burn leaves. In particular, leaves with tiny wax hairs, like those on a fern, were able to hold the droplets just above the leaf surface. Much like a magnifying glass, the droplet focused the light directly onto the leaf, which left an unmistakable burn. On the other hand, smooth leaves, like the maple, displayed no such burn effects. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, some plants are actually emo.

So, what’s the general verdict? It’s possible, but not exactly likely. Nonetheless, that research alone should be more than good enough for Roland Emmerich to make a movie where water starts massive forest fires. Or M. Night Shyamalan. What a twist!