Curiosities

How plants communicate

We tend to think of plants as very simple living beings, incapable of things like feeling or communicating. However, that thought is long out of date. Today it has been more than demonstrated that plants not only feel, but are capable of communicating, both with each other and with their environment. But what is plant communication? What language do plants use to communicate?

Do plants communicate?

As we have said, it is currently shown that plants feel and communicate . Obviously, they do not do it like us or like most animals, but they certainly do it in their own way and this allows plants to survive, adapt and evolve.

If we take into account that communication is, according to one of the meanings of the RAE, “the transmission of signals by means of a common code to the sender and the receiver”, we cannot be wrong when affirming that Yes, plants communicate .

So it seems logical to ask ourselves: do plants make sounds? Well, although it seems very curious or strange, they do. These are sounds inaudible to the human ear, but a recent study shows that they emit them, and that this is one of the many ways they communicate.

How plants communicate with each other

Plants have two main ways of communicating with each other : compounds or biochemical substances and sounds.

Communication of plants with biochemical compounds

The language of plants , also known as allelopathy , is the main means of communication by which most plant species communicate with each other. This allelopathy consists of the process by which a plant is capable of producing different types of biochemical compounds that have the capacity to affect the growth, reproduction or survival of other organisms close to it.

That is, a plant can produce terpenoids, which are compounds that make it difficult for other plants to grow in the area. In this way, the bearer plant informs the others that they will prefer to expand to other fields, giving the bearer plant more space to obtain nutrients.

Similarly, allelopathy can be used by plants to attract other beneficial plants or species, either because they grow better together or because they help avoid predators.

Plants can also communicate by emitting these volatile organic compounds to adapt to different environmental circumstances. For example, if they are attacked by a pest or predator, they will produce substances that make their taste less palatable, while also releasing the signal for other nearby plants to produce them as well.

There have also been studies related to the salinity of the environment, in such a way that plants exposed to high salinity, harmful to them, closed their pores and took a response to fight against it, but so did nearby plants not exposed to this salinity of so direct. These volatile organic compounds can be transmitted both through the air and underground, depending on the specific circumstances.

Communication of plants with sounds

Finally, as we said before, there is communication by sounds. Recent studies have shown that plants communicate by ultrasound . Thus, when a plant suffers or is stressed, it emits sounds of ultrasonic frequency. It is believed that these sounds can be used to transmit the information of the danger situation to other plants.

The study [1] was made by observing tobacco and tomato plants, to which microphones with the ability to detect ultrasound had been placed. It was shown that when the plants were in a drought situation or their stems were cut, the sound, produced by cavitation, appeared when small air bubbles were formed and exploded in the xylem.

How plants communicate with the environment

Plants also have different ways of communicating with the environment that surrounds them. They are capable of detecting the difference between top and bottom, something vital for their correct growth, and they do so thanks to the fact that the starch granules are always stored at the bottom of the cells by the action of gravity, which allows them to know in what direction grow.

Similarly, plants have photoreceptors that allow them to distinguish between different light sources. Thus, they can grow in the direction in which there is greater light, thus having less competition with other plants in the environment for sunlight.

If we ask ourselves how plants communicate with humans or other living beings , in the previous section, when we talked about allelopathy , we found the same answer. By producing compounds that worsen the taste, they seek to ward off predatory animals, or attract pollinating insects to their flowers and even consumers of ripe fruits to spread their seeds. In addition, the recent discovery of the sounds emitted by cavitation opens a lot of possibilities in the field of crops.

An example of this communication would be that of acacias , which when they are attacked by ruminants to feed on them, they emit ethylene , which causes nearby acacias to increase their production of tannins, thus activating their defense systems.

There are also plants that secrete aromatic-type substances when attacked by pests or predators, which stimulate a similar response in other nearby plants to dissuade the attacker, and that is that they may be able to distinguish the type of attacker that threatens them and adapt your answer to it.

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