Nature, a TV series on PBS, had an episode on “What Plants Talk About.” It felt good to know so many others are interested in plant intelligence. Maybe I’m not as crazy as I sometimes feel. Some of the highlights are plants do indeed talk through the vaporous emissions, distinct chemical odors, from their leaf stomata. Dodder, a parasitic plant, uses these emissions to find its prey. Slow motion shows roots actually foraging for food, and the cooperation of some plants to find necessary nutrients, even territory. It shows how plant behaviors mimic many animal behaviors, only in a much slower time frame. An excellent program not to be missed by any gardener. (Click on program title to see the show.)

More Signs of Intelligence
In a post on my fiction blog, Considering Aliens… Like Trees, I mentioned that I thought trees are intelligent, just in a different way we don’t necessarily recognize. Yet, I am always amazed by what I learn about plants (and animals, too). Here is another instance.

Strange flower! Echo chamber leaves!
Two scientists, Dr. Ralph Simon of the University of Ulm in Germany, and Dr. Marc Holderied of the University of Bristol in England, recently discovered a plant pollinated by bats that grows saucer shaped leaves, or echo beacons, above the flowers to direct a species of long-tongued bats to the flowers. It seems the plants are rare and often distant in locations, even hidden by the foliage of other plants, but these beacons allow the bats to find them twice as fast, increasing their chances of pollination. Drs. Simon and Holderied wrote about their findings last week.

Plant uses leaves as sonar dishes for bats.

Plant uses leaves as sonar dishes for bats.

Now, if that isn’t enough to make you considered the intelligence of plants, another report shows a carnivorous pitcher plant found in Borneo that attracts bats with its alluring scent. Does it eat the woolly bats that visit? No. It only traps insects to digest, but bats often perch on the rim of the ‘pitcher’ part of the plant’s flower, and while perched, the bats poop into the pitcher. Yep. The plant gathers fertilizer (nitrogen) in the form of bat guano. The more successful the plant is as a bat toilet, the richer its leaves are in nitrogen.

Isn’t the world a wonderfully amazing place?

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