Most of us see plants as defenseless organisms, simply growing on this planet to enjoy the sunshine and provide us with quality air, food, and other products. These seemingly quiet things are on a mission however.
Plants aim to reproduce and populate the earth much like humans, and many plant species have developed their own ways to ensure they will live on. Facing a plethora of predators, plants rely on several different combinations of chemical and physical defense mechanisms to protect themselves against animals, insects, and pathogens.
Some notable defenses include growing a dense covering of hair, emitting heart attack inducing toxins, and even attracting predators of predators. That’s right, when being eaten some plants will release a chemical that attracts wasps. Wasps will inject their eggs into the plant predator, killing the pest and bringing birth to a new generation of wasps.
It is amazing what some plants are capable of, even the ones right outside our own doors. The next time you see something growing in the woods or in a field, keep in mind that it may not be as harmless as it looks!
To learn more about the defenses mentioned here and many more, visit:
> How Plants Defend Themselves From Predators
> Self Defense by Plants (CA Ryan and A Jagendorf, 1995, PNAS)
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.