Touch your plants and they’ll tell their neighbors

Yearly tree pruning

Plants can detect the presence of their neighbours and modify their growth behaviour accordingly. But the extent to which this neighbour detection is mediated by abiotic stressors is not well known. In this study we tested the acclimation response of Zea mays L. seedlings through belowground interactions to the presence of their siblings exposed to brief mechano stimuli. Maize seedling simultaneously shared the growth solution of touched plants or they were transferred to the growth solution of previously touched plants. We tested the growth preferences of newly germinated seedlings toward the growth solution of touched (T_solution) or untouched plants (C_solution). The primary root of the newly germinated seedlings grew significantly less towards T_solution than to C_solution. Plants transferred to T_solution allocated more biomass to shoots and less to roots. While plants that simultaneously shared their growth solution with the touched plants produced more biomass. Results show that plant responses to neighbours can be modified by aboveground abiotic stress to those neighbours and suggest that these modifications are mediated by belowground interactions.

rest of the paper

Sarracenia psittacina aka Parrot pitcher plant

This is a plant I didn’t much like a first, but it has a way of growing on you. The twisted shape and bright red add interest to dish gardens.

First discovered in the mid 1700s, it’s not recorded in detail until ~1800. It is a US carnivorous pitcher plant that grows along the top of the Gulf Coast. It is very similar to the Darlingtonia californica, luring insects with nectar then using a small entrance to trap insects in a long tube. There are downward pointing hairs to keep the insect in should it manage to find the the exit. Eventually the insects drown in the water in the bottom, narrow section of the pitcher.

This is the only known ‘lobster pot’ mechanism for insect capture in carnivorous plants. It’s thought that this allows them to catch prey whether the pitchers are above or below the water.

It grows in the bogs and swamps of pine forests, often submerged, the leaves grow horizontally, so keep it wet and give it lots of light. ( early leaves may grow upright, later leaves getting more horizontal until they are flat so use a wide pot )

There is a moth, Exyra that lives inside the pitcher, feeding on the nectar and not getting eaten.

Does not go dormant in the winter, benefits from occasional habitat fires.

More info:
Sarracenia psittacina, at

Rip Van Winkle effect allows plants to survive

image source

Scores of plant species are capable of living dormant under the soil for up to 20 years, enabling them to survive through difficult times, a new study has found.

An international team of academics has found that at least 114 plant species from 24 different plant families, from widespread locations and ecological communities around the world, are capable of prolonged dormancy as adult plants, remaining alive in the soil but not emerging from the ground every spring. This behaviour enables them not only to survive through difficult times, but to make the best of adversity. … more

Shefferson Lab for Plant Fungal Evolutionary Ecology

Propagation by division

Some plants won’t grow from cuttings; ferns, bromeliads… Those ones are easiest to propagate by division. I find dividing plants to be much easier than propagating from cuttings.

Wait until you have a good size clump of the plant. You’ll need to get leaves and roots on each division. Some plants can be gently separated by running them under water to remove all the soil then gently pulling apart. Others you’ll need to cut apart with a sharp razor.

I start most of new plants in sphagnum moss. It seems to keep the moisture more consistent and I have less problems with fungus and molds.

I like clear containers so I can keep an eye on the roots and moisture.

Divided plants don’t need any special care, I bump them up into larger pots or plant outside as soon as I see new roots or leaves.

Propagation by cuttings


Most plants are easy to clone from a cutting. Anything woody, shrubby, branched, or a vine will work.

Some plants, like Angel’s Trumpet, will only grow from hard branches, others only from the soft new green ones. Most plants will grow from both.

The new roots will grow from leaf nodes that are in water or soil. Remove at least 3 leaves, and put 3 nodes below the water or soil level. If you plant in soil be sure to keep the bottom stem at least a half inch off the bottom of the pot or it will rot. I find sphagnum is the best medium for getting cuttings started.

I like to use clear plastic cups, that way I can see when the roots appear and if they are getting enough, too much or too little water.

Some plants need a bit of rooting hormone to get started, almost all won’t need it. I find the powered rooting hormone easiest to use. Wet the stem and roll it in some of the powder before planting.

Remove most all of the remaining leaves. The plant has no roots so it can’t get water to the leaves. The less it starts with the better your chances. How many depends on the size of the leaves. I try to leave about 1-2 square inches of leaf surface. If need be cut a leaf in half.

Because there is not water going up to the plant you’ll need to keep the humidity very high. Use a terrarium, plastic cup, or a clear plastic bag to keep the moisture in.

When new leaves appear, slowly let the plant adjust to life outside the humidity closure. Once it’s been adapted ( 2-6 weeks ) Replant it in soil, outside if it’s to be an outdoor plant, in a pot if it’ll be indoors.

Giant tree forests need 59″ rain per year to form


Tree canopies come in two main heights ~82′ and 131′. They form in tropical and temperate regions but only if the yearly rainfall is consistently 59″ or more

Rainforests are among the most charismatic as well as the most endangered ecosystems of the world. However, whereas the effects of climate change on tropical forests resilience is a focus of intense research,the conditions for their equally impressive temperate counterparts remain poorly understood,and it remains unclear whether tropical and temperate rainforests have fundamental similarities or not.Here we use new global data from high precision laser altimetry equipment on satellites to reveal for the first time that across climate zones ‘giant forests’ are a distinct and universal phenomenon, reflected in a separate mode of canopy height (~40m) world-wide. Occurrence of these giant forests (cut-off height > 25 m) is negatively correlated to variability in rainfall and temperature. We also demonstrate that their distribution is sharply limited to situations with a mean annual precipitation above a threshold of 1500 mm that is surprisingly universal across tropical and temperate climates. The total area with such precipitation levels is projected to increase by ~4 million km2globally. Our results thus imply that strategic management could in principle facilitate the expansion of giant forests, securing critically endangered biodiversity as well as carbon storage in selected regions

A Global Climate Niche forGiant Trees