Native to South America, Hura Crepitans is regarded as one of the most dangerous plants in the world, which is easily recognizable for its size reaching up to 60 meters (200 feet) and for its bark covered with spikes. But these spikes sharp and dark, who earned the name of “monkey- no-climb“, are not the only way it can inflict harm, as its poisonous fruit explodes with a loud noise, flinging shrapnel of big and hard seeds at speeds up to 240 km / h (150 mph) that can cause serious injury. Also, know as the Sandbox tree, it was introduced to other parts of the world where it is now invasive.
Mimosa pudica is a creeping plant native to South America that can now be found all over the globe, which is known as a “sensitive plant” as well as by many others names like “the shame plant” or “touch me not”. As you might have guessed, the most interesting aspect of this shy plant is its response to touch, as its rudimentary nervous system makes its leaves fold up and droop when they’re touched or shaken. Studies have shown that leaves actually close under various stimuli like warming and blowing and that they are able to transmit the message to neighbouring foliage, yet it remains unclear why Mimosa pudica evolved this trait. But it seems like it developed as a defence from herbivores and other disturbances. Who said plants do not feel?
The recent discovery of Mesodinium Chamaeleon in 2012 in Denmark has hit the scientific community like a bombshell, as the mysterious creature was revealed to be in a unique form of life that is half plant and half animal. This green single-celled organism is actually getting its energy by eating other organisms like an animal and uses chlorophyll granules from the plants that it acts to produce photosynthesis, like a plant. A cousin to the red Mesodinium rubrum which is known to be responsible for the famous red tides the strange Mesodinium Chamaeleon that also lives at the bottom of the sea doubts all classification traditional of living beings.
Vachellia drepanolobium is a dominant plant species in the heavy- clay soils of East Africa, which combines structural defences as well as mutualistic relationships with some species of ants. For the purpose of defending itself against local herbivores like elephants and giraffes the tree developed slender thorns and hollow bulbs, known as domatia to house ant colonies, but also glands that secrete a nectar to provide its ants defence forces with nutritional support. It is also known like the whistling thorn, because of the noise made by the wind blowing in their drilled bulbs. Other plants have adopted this kind of biotic defense called myrmechophytism to get rid of invaders and other parasitic plants like the Cecropia tree that provides shelter and food for the Azteca ants directly inside its trunk.
Ceratocaryum refers to the group of plants that is native to the Cape Province in South Africa. A species in this genus, Ceratocaryum argenteum, has a very unusual method to disperse its seeds. It produces strongly scented berries that mimic the appearance and smell of antelope droppings that tricks dung beetles in search of dung to roll and bury, as food storage or to lay their eggs in. Outmarted by a plant, the dung beetle will disperse and bury its seeds for no reward. Among the few other plants using deception to aid dispersal are the ‘Corpse flower” that emits a scent similar to rotting flesh to lure pollinators feeding on dead animal or Orphrys apifera, the bee orchid, which evolved to be able to mimic the scent and appearance of a female bee. The orchid drives males so crazy that they often prefer it to real females and try desperately to mate with its flowers, spreading its pollen in the process.
Some plants can distinguish who their family members are among individuals of the same species by exuding chemicals from their roots and are even able to choose to act altruistically by sharing available nutrients with relatives. Impatiens pallida, a common plant in North America, grows its roots as fast as it can when genetically unrelated Impatiens are around, but puts less energy than usual to growing roots when it is surrounded by family relatives. After exposing plants to successive wavelengths of light and viruses, scientists observed that they started protecting themselves before the virus exposure, providing that plants can learn to associate the light duration with different kinds of danger.
Plants like cabbage can emit a volatile gas, namely methyl jasmonate to warn the others of the presence of insects or herbivores. But, plants generally only send alert signals to warn their family members and fellows of the danger. In fact, the lovely smell of freshly- cut grass is also a plant distress call to its congeners or rather the plant version of screaming.
However, some tobacco plants of the Nicotiana genus can understand and communicate with other types of plants, and even with insects. Scientists discovered that some plants are not only communicating by using chemicals but also sound like corn saplings, that were discovered to make clicking noises and respond to them.
Emerging in the dry landscapes of Australia shortly after it broke up from the continent. Eucalyptus trees have developed a unique arsenal to defend themselves against the frequent bushfires. Not only did they become immune to forest fires by evolving a thick bark and regeneration capabilities, but they encourage fires with leaves secreting a highly flammable oil that can make trees explode. Spreading the volatile oil and large amounts of toxic leaf litter that insects and fungi cannot break down. Eucalyptus trees basically spend their life to set up an explosive stage and wait for a spark.
Eucalyptus actually napalm their environment to be the first to spread again after the apocalypse, thanks not only to their renewal abilities but also to their serotinous fruits, that do not release seeds when they mature, but when they exposed to fire.
The most obvious power of carnivorous plants is certainly their ability to eat animals like bugs, frogs, birds and even little monkeys, but some like the Venus flytrap do much more than that: they can count, up to at least five. After feeling the presence of an insect thanks to sensitive hair on the inner surface of its trap, the Venus flytrap evaluates the nutritional intake of the prey, and counts how many times it is touched. After 5 triggers, the trap closes on the careless visitor and the plant starts to secrete digestive enzymes. The more the fly fights to escape, the more enzymes are produces to transform it into a nourishing soup. This discovery is additional evidence that some plants are able of performing computation and other behaviors, in the absence of a brain.