Nerd Talk Tuesday : Talking Trees!?

Nerd Talk Tuesday

Featuring : “Talking Trees?”

I hope you’re ready, kiddos, because the following information is going to make you regret every single flower you’ve ever picked.

Don’t worry, I’m not judging you! At first glance, those tiny flowers don’t seem all that impressive. In general, plants aren’t valued much beyond their ability to produce food and air. When all they seem to do is expand in size and sway in the wind, it’s all too easy to forget that plants are living organisms at all. While they don’t make much noise and don’t move from place to place, plants are far from inanimate. 

The results of a recent arborial studies in Canada will forever change the way you look at these little green guys and ban you from ever again using “house plant” as an insult.

Deep in the forests of British Columbia, ecologist Suzanne Simard asked herself, “Do trees talk to each other?” In her quest for answers, Simard stumbled upon a labyrinth of highly complex inter-plant relationships and networks.

Simard explains that the data she and her team gathered shows that trees exchange both chemical and hormonal signals between each other. 

“How?” you ask. 

The key to this inter-plant networking is fungus. Through a symbiotic relationship,the fungal networks extending from plant roots create an incredibly dense highway that facilitates chemical exchange.

That’s not even the most amazing part, researchers found that trees were not only swapping chemicals, but hormone signals as well. When one plant experienced a stress, be it a drought, disease, or assault from predators, it would send hormones communicating distress signals to its neighbors. One plant sounds the alarm bell, allowing others to begin producing the appropriate chemical response in anticipation. 

By sending hormonal distress signals to one another, plants are ensuring the survivability of their own. They are working in tandem to protect themselves and even exchanged gases or water to those that are in need. 

All of this to say, plants are far more complex than they’re given credit for. When it comes to understanding the natural world around us, this begs the question, what else have we overlooked? Enjoy Suzanne Simards discussion of her research in the TedTalk here and (as always) stay curious, kiddos!