Who would’ve thought plants, the least likely species to run away from a crime scene would be the ones with the farthest reaching communication network? Have trees been talking in our backs this whole time?
Our vision of plants as lonesome living organisms stuck in the ground by the roots must change. Vegetal life forms communicate through canals as varied as they are surprising. From the tip of their canopies to the depth of their roots, trees are well aware of their environment and what surrounds them.
Trees make for great neighbours
We had known for a while that trees could react to their immediate environment. For example, most trees prefer to listen to classical music (We quite often do too). They also understand they have neighbours.
Canopy shyness is a strange and beautiful phenomenon. When tree leaves come close to contact with another tall fellow, they leave a small spacing between each other, so as not to steal sunlight (or just because they don’t like touch, we’re not sure). Trees know how to organise the fair(ish) distribution of sunlight among the community.
But it appears this was only the tip of the iceberg. We’ve also discovered — or uncovered rather — an extremely vast network of exchange, nutrition, and even communication between most every plants and with the help of underground fungi.
Mushrooms grow tiny little roots (mycelia) that bind with plants and connect them with one another. Mycorrhizal networks, as they are called, form a complex, solid and more importantly huge infrastructure that supports the ecosystem as a whole. Strangely similar to our internets, imaginative scientists coined the term Wood Wide Web.
The Upcycle, Ebay and Facebook of the Flora
Through this canal, different species are able to communicate through chemical exchanges and even feed the neediest essential nutrients.
And this underground network is rustling with social interaction too. Parents protect their children, stronger trees protect weaker plants, and issue warnings when a parasite attacks a member of the community.
Yes, you have read correctly. Trees have children, ecosystem members help each other out, mushrooms trade nitrogen with trees. It’s like discovering our world is Avatar’s planet Pandora (or Pocahontas’). All life is connected. Literally.
Nature is a gigantic ode to cooperation and synergy. Fungi and plants do not even belong to the same kingdom. Yet, they are able to fusion their bodies to reap mutual benefits. The law of the Jungle may not be the one we’ve always thought. Tree huggers, do like your favorite living things: help each other out, share nutrients, and grow roots!