Lesser-known power of moonlight
Deepak Rikhye

Observations have revealed that some plant growth is influenced by the light of the moon. Some plants have adaptive mechanisms that prevent this light from interfering with photoperiodism

"I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables" — Bhagavadagita

A Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, advised people to harvest fruit or vegetables on a full moon night.
A Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, advised people to harvest fruit or vegetables on a full moon night.

These thoughts make us think about the effect of the moon on the Earth. We are already aware of the moon’s effect on the sea. This quotation refers to vegetables. It encompasses vegetation on our planet, hence the impact that the moon can have on our ecology. How does the moon’s influence create a response in plants? Several scientists have studied the effect of moonlight on vegetation. C. Beeson compiled his findings on this subject in The Moon and Plant Growth. W. Schad wrote Lunar Influence on Plants. E. Bunning examined the moon’s effect in Interference of moonlight on plants and their adaptive reaction. Peter Tompkins reported his results in Moonshine. Rudolf Steiner, who became known as a "scientist of the invisible," was motivated by a discussion with a herb collector in Vienna. The collector convinced Steiner that there was so much around us that influenced plants. Interestingly, the moon in her celestial sphere is not as inscrutable as she appears.

Sunlight’s effect on growth of vegetation is well known. But sunlight reflected by the moon also influences plant growth. It has already been proved that light intensity as low as 0.1 lux (equal to the light from a very small candle) can influence photoperiodism in plants which is essentially the response of plants through their growth in 24 hours. This led E. Bunning to verify whether moonlight can disturb the pattern of growth in a plant.

In a breakthrough, his observations revealed that some plants have adaptive mechanisms that prevent moonlight from interfering with photoperiodism.

Many plants change the position of leaves from horizontal in daylight to vertical at night. This reduces the intensity of light on the leaf surface. Bunning has further elaborated the activity of plants on a full moon night. The Albizzia, for example, has leaves rotate on their axis. Paired leaflets fold together, with their upper surfaces shading each other. There are plants that prefer to grow in less light. A farmer can identify such plants. Seeds can be planted on a full moon night. Steiner says: "With the moon’s rays the whole reflected cosmos comes onto the earth so that the force of growth may be enhanced". These plants planted on a full moon night will receive less light compared to the bright sun.

It is indeed surprising that people gave credence to moonlight as far back as Christ’s time. A Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder, who lived then, advised people to harvest fruit or vegetables on a full moon night. He had observed ants to be busiest in their anthills then. At new moon, they were observed to be listless. Pliny proved to people that fruit was not vulnerable to damage at new moon. Ants remaining in anthills will mean that they will not come out and destroy the fruit. Maria Thun, a moonwatcher and a farmer in Germany, explains that when the moon reaches its highest point and then begins to go down, plants focus on their root zone. A wonderful time for transplanting.

The plant at this time forms rootlets, giving it anchorage. Subsequently, when the moon is low on the horizon it signifies the sun's role in autumn and winter; plants during this period focus on their portions which are in the soil. This is the best time to manure, compost and harvest root crops. Farming entails tremendous dedication with a keen sense of observation.

Near Philadelphia, in the US, is a farm established in 1935. This is the first organic farm in the US. Their studies on moonlight have been compiled in a calendar known as the Kimberton Hills Calendar. The farmers at this farm programme their work on certain days when the moon has entered a particular zone of the sky; when leaves or fruit show signs of developing. This is noted by the farmer, who will write out details of the moon’s position and which plants responded best when the moon was in a particular zone. Hence, cabbage is planted on a "Leaf Day" and tomatoes on a "Fruit Day". Maria Thun is of the opinion that cultivation during an eclipse is best avoided. However scientists may not have proved this. An agriculturist, a person tending to a small vegetable garden, or a housewife tending to potted plants on a balcony at home, can all try these concepts. A full moon is marked on certain calendars. Tests could be conducted. Results could be gauged. An interesting way to connect with and reach out to Nature.