Plants are sneakier than we thought

It’s long been known that acacia trees in Central America have a mutual relationship with ants. The ants guard the trees, and the trees give the ants food and a place to live. But an enzyme in the acacia food makes ants dependent on the tree. The ants can eat no other food and must protect the tree as their only source of sustenance. They become true service animals.

In another case of mistreating insects, it seems that the “love vine” or Cassytha filiformis, which is a vine-like parasitical plant, not only steals nutrients from other plants, it steals from wasp galls, too. This is a parasite parasitizing a parasite — there is no honor among thieves.

Another parasite, Pilostyles hamiltonii, doesn’t simply sink rootlike structures (haustoria) into another plant, it lives inside its host entirely. Only its flowers emerge, erupting out of the host plant when the time is right. Imagine suddenly breaking out in alien flowers.

If you can’t steal from them, kill them. Some flowers produce toxic nectar. Why they do that isn’t clear. Honey made from toxic nectar is toxic to humans, and in the past, we’ve used it as a weapon. The only thing sneakier than plants are human beings.

Finally, there’s plant blindness — our blindness to plants. This Youtube video by biology student Benedict Furness explains the danger of failing to see plants and how we can overcome it. And we should. Plants are dangerous and aggressive, and we fail to see them at our own peril.

 

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