Study: Some Plants Recognize Their Siblings

The trays were kept in a carefully controlled environment, and the plants were fed and watered exactly the same.

"We tried to treat everybody the same," Dudley said.

Just as the plants were about to flower, they were sacrificed in the name of science. They were dug up, their roots were analyzed, measured and weighed, allowing the scientists to see if there was any difference in the roots from plants growing with siblings, and plants growing with strangers.

"We found that kin groups allocated less to their fine root mass than did stranger groups when they competed below ground, indicating that these plants could discriminate relatives," the study concludes.

But what does it all mean? Should gardeners separate their seeds according to family history?

Maybe, but maybe not.

"We don't really know yet," Dudley said. If you want your plants to live peacefully side by side, maybe it's better to collect all the seeds from one "mom," as she puts it. On the other hand, there's lots to be said for biodiversity, and if the seeds come from different moms, the plants might have different growing habits, some sending their roots deeper than others, for example, and thus collecting nutrients from a different area.

So at this point, no one really knows what all this means. Except for one thing. Some plants, but probably not all, are a bit altruistic when it comes to taking care of their families. And they're much more interesting today than they were yesterday. And that's one of the really neat things about science.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: A home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. is shown in this aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental.
Tributary Environmental/AP Photo
null
Danny Martindale/Getty Images
PHOTO: Woman who received lab-grown vagina says she now has normal life.
Metropolitan Autonomous University and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine
PHOTO: In this stock image, a woman with a hangover is pictured.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images