If you know me and how we do things around here, you know I’m no stranger to weird creatures. There are scary animals, wacky animals, deceptively simple and terrifying animals.
It was only a matter of time before I cracked. Because, you see *whispers* animals aren’t the only creepily, jawdroppingly amazing things out there.
Today we’re going to talk about PLANTS.
You might think, BUT JESS, PLANTS ARE BORING. They just grow! They can’t actually DO anything remotely similar to what WE FANCYPANTS ANIMALS CAN DO. They just sit in their dirt and lounge around like leafy versions of the Kardashians!
And you’d be wrong. (Not about the Kardashians, though).
But plants can do pretty much the same things we can. They do just it in their special plant way. The next time you’re watering your innocent little houseplant, keep these gems in mind:
1. Hedgerow flowers can estimate time with incredible precision. They end their days facing west, ready to collect the sun’s rays at dawn. Day in and day out, they shift, every night. This doesn’t sound that impressive, until I tell you that they CONTINUE these movements even when kept under uniform lighting for DAYS. You can’t trick these plants. Feeling unsettled yet?
2. The Venus flytrap can do math. It might not be able to do the quadratic equation, but hear me out. There are trigger hairs all over its ‘mouth’. When a fly lands on it and triggers one hair, the plant stays open. When TWO trigger hairs are touched – BAM – goodnight, fly. It can COUNT.
3. Acacia trees are a favorite food to many African animals, especially giraffes and elephants. When one acacia tree is grazed upon, it TELLS NEARBY ACACIAS to start producing POISON, so they don’t get eaten. These trees can COMMUNICATE to their family.
4. Flowers depend on insects to pollinate them, right? So they do their best to look all alluring to bugs. But the Cyprus bee orchid takes this one step further. What’s a surefire way to get a dude bee’s attention? Dress up like a FEMALE BEE. This way, the male bee flies over thinking he’s getting some female face time, when really, he’s just tricked into pollinating an orchid like a chump. The plant is left pollinated, and the bee is probably rather confused at the encounter.
Observe the orchid in question.
As if the deception isn’t enough, it also secretes a chemical that smells IDENTICAL to lady bees. Male bees don’t have a chance.
5. Plants can integrate information. This is something we previously thought only animals could do. They don’t have brains, yet they can compute the same reward-risk dilemma that animals have. This means that plants can determine competitors and risks, as well as the potential positive outcomes of a certain move. Think of when a lion has to decide ‘hmm, is it really worth chasing down this zebra? Will I probably get kicked in the face?’ — plants make these types of decisions, too, and act accordingly. They just do it without a cognitive process like ours.
If you’re not weirded out by your leafy housemates yet, I suggest you read The Private Life of Plants, by David Attenborough, where many of these phenomena are discussed in lilting, British prose.