It might sound funny as the theory of circular Earth sounded to those who believe the world is indifferent. But this does not sound funny for the Smithsonian magazine, which in its March 2018 edition said: "Revolution is taking place in the scientific understanding of trees. The latest research conducted at renowned universities in Germany and around the world confirms that the trees are far more cautious, social and sophisticated – even intelligent – than we thought. "
From Darwin's day, trees were considered lonely, competing against each other for sunlight, moisture and nutrients, in the abundance of the most capable battles. New evidence shows the opposite, that trees actually help each other, communicating together in the process.
Examples of how trees communicate
Trees in the woods are connected to the underground network. The tree partner with useful mushrooms, which make up the tangled net of tiny, or no thread between tree roots and teaspoon, contains miles of these fibers. Mushrooms consume about 30 percent of the food produced from trees, and mushrooms shed soil for the nutrients available to the tree. This is called a mycorrhizal network.
Trees send chemical, hormonal and pulse electrical signals to each other through the underground mycorrhizal network. Swiss scientists have identified voltage signals similar to electric impulses of the animal's nervous system.
Trees sent from tree to tree are often signs of danger warning of drought, disease and insect attack. The second tree, upon receiving the message, changes its behavior, adjusts its defense to prepare for the upcoming battle.
Scientists from the University of British Columbia recorded electrical signals transmitted from scrap trees. Some trees communicate by sending smells or pheromones. Afghanistan's Arabian tree releases ethylene gas while the giraffe fuses the leaves. Gas ethylene detects adjacent trees, which in turn start pumping tannins into their leaves to make them unpleasant if the giraffe starts the journey.
Elms and pines, when attacked by caterpillars that eat leaflets, release pheromones, attracting parasitic axes, which in turn attack the caterpillars.
The Israeli scientist, in a controlled experiment, found that when the herb plants were subjected to drought conditions, leaf leaf disorders were closed as expected in order to preserve the moisture of the plant. But other peas usually spilled, they also unexpectedly closed leaf leaves shortly after plants under stress, as warned. When these plants were signaled by others that droughts came, they were prepared.
If scientists can unlock the ways in which plants communicate with each other, foresters and farmers can encourage these responses to create plants that are resistant to drought, insects and diseases.
For example, if scientists can isolate how attacked trees signal other trees to produce insect compounds, they could use tree-building information with built-in resistance.
Don Kinzler, a garden gardener, worked as a NDSU Extension horticulturist and owner of Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can visit it at [email protected]