PlantTherapy: Loyal to its Roots

PlantTherapy: Loyal to its Roots

Jun 15, 2008

The NY Times paper edition had the most beautifully printed image on the front of its science section this past week, and I saw it staring across from me as I sat on the downtown 6, an article about a plant that recognizes its family - and also who isn't - and acts accordingly...

It is fascinating to watch as the Cuscuta pentagona 'sniffs' the air and seeks out the tomato seedling, a plant it has identified as a foe. In addition it attacks at the roots, grabbing up nutrients for itself. If it recognizes one of its own, however, it 'politely restrains itself'.

The NY Times article is here. What made for great reading is that the plant behavior is seen by scientists as intentional and very 'animal-like', and that they are having a hard time suspending their disbelief and grasping that some (although only 2 are known at this point) plants can behave in this manner. Plants are plants and animals are animals, so it has been believed, but now this research is suggesting a departure from that line of thinking.

Either way, it makes me more interested in how my plants grow and interact. Although I doubt I will see anything so deliberate, it makes me look twice as my passionflower grows up my euphorbia!

matt at apartment therapy dot com

all images via NY Times: Justin Runyon/De Moraes and Mescher Labs, Brian McClatchy/De Moraes and Mescher Labs, and Animals Animals/Earth Scenes

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