Can plants communicate with each other?

When we think about communication, we usually imagine people talking or texting. However, all living beings communicate in some way. Plants also have their own secret language. Although they cannot speak, vegetation has sophisticated mechanisms to communicate with each other and with their environment. This fascinating underground and aerial world of chemical and physical signals is crucial to their survival.

the plants

Plants and chemical communication

Plants use a complex system of chemical signals to communicate through their roots. Through this process, known as rhizospheric communication, roots release chemical compounds called root exudates.

These exudates include a wide variety of compounds, such as sugars, amino acids, organic acids, vitamins, enzymes, and phenolic compounds. The composition and quantity of these exudates can vary depending on the plant species and thanks to them They can attract beneficial microorganisms, repel pathogens, or even alert other plants to threats such as pests or diseases. For example, when insects attack a plant, it can release compounds that warn neighboring plants to strengthen their defenses.

The mycorrhizal network

Another form of communication is through an underground network of mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form a symbiosis with the roots of plants, creating a vast network known as the “Wood Wide Web.”

Through this network, plants can exchange nutrients and information. For example, a plant can send warning signals about an infection, allowing other plants to be prepared before being attacked.

Air communication between plants

In addition to underground signals, they also communicate through the air by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are released by leaves and can travel long distances to reach other plants.

A classic example is when a herbivore damages a plant. The damaged plant can release VOCs that warn nearby plants, inducing them to produce chemicals that modify the leaves to make them less palatable to herbivores.

Electrical signals also serve as messages

Electrical signals constitute another method of communication between plants. These signals are transmitted through the plant’s vascular system. When a plant experiences physical damage, such as a broken leaf, an electrical signal is generated that travels to other parts of the plant to initiate a defensive response. This is a mechanism similar to the nervous system of animals, although much slower.

Recent research revealed that, using special microphones, ultrasonic sounds emitted by stressed plants, such as tomatoes and cacti, can be detected. These sounds are only perceived by some insects such as moths and mammals such as bats and mice. It is a discovery that allows scientists to develop new ways to diagnose and monitor the health of plants without having to touch them.

Cacti make sounds

Communication between plants is a fascinating topic that reveals the complexity and sophistication of these living beings. They developed multiple ways to interact with their environment and protect each other. Understanding these processes offers numerous important implications for agriculture and environmental conservation.

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