Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weird Wednesday: Say Hello With a Funga-Phone!

Enough art for awhile, I'm back to science today. I've often wondered how plants communicate with each other. No vocal chords, no silicon chip capability, no opposable thumbs. Poor, silent creatures, right? Turns out, they do chat with each other, via Funga-Phone!
Oh, the gossip in this place! The awful din!
Scientists in both Scotland and China have been studying how plants use their symbiotic soil fungi as a communication system. When a plant is attacked by pests, like nasty aphids, it can activate certain genes that protect it, or secrete pheromones that make it attractive to wasps that eat aphids. But how can it warn its neighbors that it's under attack by sticky green hordes? Originally, it was thought that plants could only use pheromones of alarm, carried on the breeze. But that's not very reliable. What if the wind isn't blowing, or is blowing the wrong way? Plants turn on their Funga-Phones....

Soil fungi form networks among plants, and the plants can pass communication molecules through their symbiotic fungi. In other words, it's like a Phyto-Internet. This method has only recently been discovered, so who knows what all plants can discuss?

But what about Tillandsias? They have no soil. How do they dish the dirt when they got no dirt??

Not much to talk about, again....
I suspect that in the wild, Tillies might utilize the fungi that grow on their host trees. Or maybe pass messages through their symbiotic ant networks. Or perhaps they have a different way to communicate entirely. It's definitely a possible avenue of research. Does anyone know how the TillyNet works??


  1. Oh gosh, I wonder what the plants in my yard are saying about me! Probably complaining about their weedy neighbors. And now....they are on the fungi-net. Marla you are going to give me strange dreams tonight. o_O

  2. The Fungi-Net does help me understand how some plants may do much better outdoors, in groups, than in pots indoors (even when the conditions outside are harsher than those indoors). And I DID have weird dreams last night- one was about talking to my old biology teacher about how to cope with the new students at school that looked suspiciously green and leafy....