Did you know plants have their own social media network?

A picture of a small tree connected with a network

Plants communicate mainly to fight diseases and infestation. When they are attacked or damaged they release warning signals in the form of volatile chemicals that could be called “plant language”. A typical example of this chemical response, is the smell of freshly cut grass!

Plants of the same species pick up these chemical signals to raise their defence mechanisms even before they are attacked. Unrelated plant species can translate and use these warning messages as well. Insects and pollinators can also tune into plants’ communication using specialized receptors [1].

Communication occurs underground as well. Most plants have symbiotic relations with fungi living on their roots. Fungal filaments help plants absorb water and nutrients, but also form widespread networks that convey chemical signals to warn neighbours when an attack is underway. Therefore, creating an underground social network of chemical messages. Understanding this messaging further will allow scientists to develop novel pest management solutions to protect crops.

A picture of plants on a window sill

[1] Šimpraga M, Takabayashi J, Holopainen JK. Language of plants: Where is the word? J Integr Plant Biol. 2016 Apr;58(4):343-9. doi: 10.1111/jipb.12447