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110 Plants to Feed the BeesI discovered this book on Net Galley and opened it out of curiosity. Bees and their populations are a huge environmental issue right now. I think I’ve mentioned in my last post and in other posts, the volume of honeybees in my area has declined drastically in the last few years. Hopefully this book will help gardeners become aware of plants to draw bees and maybe as gardeners we can provide a welcoming and safe environment for these extremely important insects.

100 Plants to FEED THE BEES: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive – The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Publication date: December 2016
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
ISBN-10: 1612-12701-0
ISBN-13: 978-1612-12701-9

While this book is a handbook of plants insects need, it is an important book for every gardener. The book begins with a very interesting short version of the multi-million year history of how plants and insects evolved into essential partnerships. For those who have ignored environmental problems, bees have been disappearing, and bees and humans also have an essential partnership. The DNR claims bees pollinate approximately roughly 75% of the vegetables, fruits, and nuts we eat. Personally, I love those plant products and want to keep bees around to do what they do best. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed a distinct decline in the number of honeybees visiting my plants.

100 PLANTS TO FEED THE BEES offers an extensive list of plants whose flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees, and not only honey bees but native bees and other pollinators such as moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Each plant section contains a photo of the plant, the plant’s botanical name, and some basic information on the plant, plus a map of where it grows. Interesting information and sometimes warnings about the plant are also included. An example of a warning is mustard, which is considered a noxious weed in some locations, and illegal to grow.

Included in the 100 plants are native wildflowers and non-native or introduced wildflowers (weeds), garden plants, herbs, trees and shrubs, and even pasture plants. I was glad to see many of the plants I’ve recognized growing in my area, and my garden holds many other recommended selections. I was surprised to see Tilia Americana or the common basswood tree, until I remembered standing under my trees when in bloom and hearing myriad bees busy in the tree’s unseen upper stories. I appreciated the list of insects each plant attracts far beyond bees, too. I looked over an online version of the book, and then pre-order a volume. I recommend all gardeners purchase a copy of 100 PLANTS TO FEED THE BEES, and a big thanks to Xerces Society authors Eric Lee-Mäder, Jarrod Fowler, Jillian Vento, and Jennifer Hopwood for this work.

Watch this short video at Discovery News.

Another post on NPR titled ‘Plants Know The Rhythm Of The Caterpillar’s Creep,’ also talks about this phenomenon.

My belief in plant intelligence keeps getting more support.

Yes, scientists are studying how plants hear and respond to what they hear. So if you talk to your plants, isn’t it nice to know they are listening!

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?

I’ve discussed the intelligence of plants and communicating with aliens. (I write scifi/fantasy so this has to interest me!) In our changing world, this is a skill we might have to learn and could start by practicing on plants.

Much to my amazement while reading The Week magazine, I discovered I’m not the only one who believes in plant intelligence. (Okay; I know this depends on your definition of intelligence, but this is also a matter of considering exactly what intelligence causes to happen. Do I know plants don’t write fiction or contemplate philosophy — yes, probably.) Investigations have shown certain evidence that plants might not only be able to talk to each other, but also wage high-tech chemical warfare.

Three have researched how plants use sound. Botanists in Australia, Britain, and Italy confirmed that the “young roots of corn made regular clicking sounds. They also found that young corn roots suspended in water leaned toward the source of a continuous sound emitted in the region of 220Hz, which is within the frequency range the same roots emitted themselves.” Though they don’t know how these sounds are made, or what they mean to the plants, they do acknowledge the plants respond.

This proves plants not only respond to light, react to volatile chemicals, but now to sound. All this without recognizable eyes, noses, ears, nervous systems, or brains. One of these researchers, Dr Monica Gagliano, from the University of Western Australia, said, “It is very likely that some form of sensitivity to sound and vibrations plays an important role in the life of plants.”

There is more, as I’ve found this old Internet article of 2007. Professor Stefano Mancuso is on a search for plant intelligence. He says, “If you define intelligence as the capacity to solve problems, plants have a lot to teach us,” and … “Not only are they ‘smart’ in how they grow, adapt and thrive, they do it without neuroses. Intelligence isn’t only about having a brain.”

So, while searching the web, you might discover more facts besides the sonar leaves of the Cuban plant, Marcgravia eveni. For instance, when Giraffes eat the leaves of acacia trees, the leaves munched upon emit a volatile chemical that alters the chemical balance in other leaves that turns them poisonous and unpalatable. The Giraffes stop eating the leaves. Bracken fern, like the eucalyptus tree, have developed methods to survive wild fires, moreover they both also encourage those fires to get rid of their competition. How about some proof plants recognize their own species? Yep. Some seem to do so. And how about orchids that have altered their scent to that of the female sexual hormone of the pollinating insects? Yep. True. Smart? I think so, but there is so much more. So give a few snaps for those smarty-pants corn seedlings!

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