Flower family knows its roots

August 11, 2014 – 12:06 am

Yellow jewelweeds, wildflowers that grow along shady watersides in eastern North America, apparently can recognize their siblings as long as roots share soil.

Yellow jewelweeds, wildflowers that grow along shady watersides in eastern North America, apparently can recognize their siblings as long as roots share soil.

pellaea/Flickr

Jewelweeds, or Impatiens, are pretty flowers that grow in wet, shady spots all over the Northern Hemisphere. According to a recent experiment, they seem to know their own flower family.

The experiment suggests that these flowers can recognize each other—or at least, recognize whether or not they came from the same mother plant. Together with other experiments, these results show that if the plants are recognizing their kin, it’s not through their leaves, it’s through the roots.

Guillermo P. Murphy and Susan Dudley are a pair of botanists, or scientists who study plants, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. In this experiment, they planted jewelweeds in pots with either siblings or strangers. Sibling plants were grown from seeds that came from the same mother plant. Stranger plantswere grown from seeds from different plants.

If people were plants, then this experiment would be like showing that a person behaves differently if he grows up next to his brother than if he grows up next to a stranger.

When jewelweeds were planted in pots with strangers, the plants started to grow more leaves than if they had been planted alone. This response suggests that plants are competing with strangers for sunlight, since a plant with more leaves can receive more light—and make more food. Impatiens normally grow in the shade, where sunlight is scarce.

Researchers grow jewelweed seedlings in tall pots to test for effects of growing near siblings or non-siblings. Plants react mildly to siblings but start shifting their resources to leaf warfare when surrounded by strangers, researchers found.

G. Murphy

When jewelweed seedlings were planted with siblings, they grew a few more branches than they normally would if they were alone — but they did not start growing lots of extra leaves. This behavior suggests the plants are more likely to share resources, rather than compete.

The plants only responded this way when they shared soil. If stranger seedlings were planted in different pots and placed next to each other, for example, they did not grow more leaves. This difference shows that the plants must use their roots to detect sibling plants in the same soil.

“This is the first paper that shows that plants are responding above ground to sibling roots, ” Murphy told Science News.

Source: student.societyforscience.org


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All Flowers are Wildflowers Somewhere...

...unless the flowers were hybridized and mutated by man, but they still had a wildflower origin.
Native plants/wildflowers are better adapted to the climate and soil than something like impatiens so they will usually survive, reproduce and not need to be replanted each year. If you study the plants and select the right ones, they can bloom for an extended season. Some wildflowers you could compare to daffodils because they only bloom for a couple of weeks. Wildflowers/native plants also attract more butterflies and bees.
If you just randomly plant wildflower seeds between other plants with no planning, it could look like a mess


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