Gallery D

The Plant Kingdom

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Yes – Plants Are Aware And Communicate

By James Donahue

It seems that James Westwood, a professor in plant pathology, physiology and weeds at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech, has just discovered that plants communicate with each other and even share genetic information.

Westwood has just published his findings in the August 15 issue of the journal Science.

Somehow it is not news to people who love and grow plants, and to many home gardeners, although the extent of communication, apparently using a special language known only to the plant kingdom, might be of great interest.

In his research involving a parasitic plant (like a vine) that feeds off of a host plant, Westwood discovered that there is a passing of Ribonucleic acid (RNA), or biological molecules between plants that carry coding, regulation and genetic information between plants. He says there is a special form of RNA which Westwood calls "messenger" RNA that appears to be involved in protein synthesis during translation.

Some plants appear to use this information to establish a defense against certain harmful parasites, Westwood found.

My late wife, Doris, who loved to grow flowers and always kept house plants, knew that some plants did not get along with one another. She always placed her house plants among other "friendly" plants where they grew lush and green. When in an environment they did not like, the plants remained stunted and sometimes died.

Choosing the right place in the house was always an important part of growing indoor plants. Some only wanted a little sunlight, others wanted no direct sunlight at all.

Doris always spoke lovingly to her plants, and found that they responded to friendly human touch as well.

Other research in plant pathology has determined that plants are keenly aware of their environment and they respond to loving care. They also have a negative response to violent and unfriendly behavior in the room.

After my wife’s sudden death last year, her plants began to wither and die as well, in spite of efforts to keep them alive.