We have always considered plants as mostly passive beings, able to perform just a small set of very simple and limited reactions to the most obvious changes in their environment. Light, darkness. Open, close. Raise, lower.
But a team of researchers led by Josef F. Stuefer from the Radboud University in Nijmegen (Netherlands) has discovered that plants communicate over a network, especially to warn of approaching herbivores.
Many plants such as clover and
strawberries don’t always reproduce by seed, but increase in size by
sending horizontal stems, known as runners, along or under the ground.
These eventually form new plants. Interestingly, many of these
connections remain intact even when the new plant lives independently
from its parent.
appears that attacked plants quickly pass signals along their networks
warning others of imminent danger. In response, plants on the receiving
end of the message make themselves less attractive to advancing insects
that can make the difference between life and death.
Ah, the clever clover.
I am going to mow the lawn tomorrow: after finishing an initial strip, I will conduct an audit of the surrounding clover plants in order to understand whether they communicate about the lawnmower threat.
[Photo from the press release, "Talking plants log on"]