- Sven Patky
Approximately 4.5 billion years ago, the surface of our planet was barren and devoid of life.
It took another two billion years for the first single-celled organisms to appear in the ocean, including the first algae. Grypania spiralis, which was roughly the size of a 50 cent dollar coin.
Plants made up of many cells have only been around for about 800 million years. To survive on land, plants had to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays and develop spores and then seeds that allow them to spread more widely.
These innovations helped them become a way of life most influential from the planet. Today they are found in all major ecosystems, and scientists describe more than 2,000 new species each year.
David Attenborough’s new documentary, The Green Planet, focuses his attention on plants and their ability to inspire us. In just one recent example, engineers have successfully copied the shape of a winged maple seed to design new wind turbines.
Plants contain many secrets that scientists have not yet discovered. But here are five discoveries that helped us see our distant cousins in a new light.
1. Plants “talk” to each other
Of course, plants don’t have vocal cords, so they can’t speak like we do. but they use chemical and electronic signals To coordinate responses to their environment.
When plant cells, like weeds cut down by a lawn mower, are damaged, they release protein fragments that can be detected by surrounding plants.
It’s like a neighborhood monitoring system When one plant is damaged, the others are notified that there is danger nearby. This can lead to an immune response or other defenses.
Likewise, plants can detect pollinators in their vicinity and release chemicals to attract them. These signals cause plants Communication is very complicated.
2. Plants can move
In his seminal book The Power of Motion in Plants, published in 1880, Charles Darwin described the ability of plants to move away from or toward light.
Scientists call this direction of light. It is now known that plant movements are guided not only by light, but also by water and nutrients, and in response to grazing animals and competition from other plants.
Plants can appear frozen in place, with the intention of remaining where their seeds germinate. But in reality, plants are constantly modifying their leaves, roots, and stems to improve their chances of survival.
For example, the parts of stems that remain in the shade are stretched to ensure that the plant grows toward the light in a process mediated by hormones. The roots show the opposite effect, causing them to grow away from the light.
In some extreme cases, plants can Move through the forest complete. Nomadic vines grow upwards from the bottom of the tree trunk and then erupt out of the ground.
Later they take aerial roots and descend again, allowing them to move between trees.
3. Plants can grow in space
Crossing space and living on another planet is something humanity has imagined for a long time, but no other planet with the same environment as Earth has been found.
We know plants are experts at modifying environments to fit life’s most complex needs. When the first forests began photosynthesising, they supplied the Earth’s atmosphere with oxygen and removed carbon dioxide, making the planet more habitable.
Could growing plants on distant planets make them better suited to our needs?
During the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, scientists studied how plants grow and develop in space. So far, experts have developed 17 different varieties in specialized rooms, including corn, wheat, tomatoes, and lettuce.
There are still significant challenges to growing Earth plants outside our atmosphere, including radiation during spaceflight and differences in gas movements in space compared to Earth.
If you think that it is difficult to keep a live plant at home, try to do it in space.
Converting a planet to make it habitable is still difficult, but all the advances in botany in recent years make it achievable goal. We might even be able to see it.
4. One of each 10 Plants grow on another plant
With a height of tens of meters, they are among the tallest living creatures on the planet. Sequoia, for example, can reach 10 meters in height.
Scientists began studying tall treetops by training monkeys or hiring expert climbers to collect samples. Some even used shotguns to drop samples.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that parachute research became a scientific discipline in its own right, borrowing the technique of rope climbing from mountain climbing.
Later, scientists began to use cranes, balloons, and drones.
But why would you risk your life to climb a tree? What is going on there?
It is estimated that even 80% of species live their entire lives in the canopy.l forest or shrub (The habitat from which the tops of trees are formed).
And one in 10 known vascular plants — the types that use vein-like vessels to transport water and nutrients throughout the body — grow on top of other plants.
They are called walker plants and are not parasites, but use their host as a physical support. This gives them an advantage over plants growing in the lower tier, where the light is scarce.
Most orchids grow on trees, and a single tree can support up to 50 species of epiphytic plants. These herbaceous plants often produce more leaves than the host tree.
5. Plants can indicate global changes
Organisms are very sensitive to changes in their environment and plants in particular have been used to detect these changes for centuries. When the color of the leaves begins to change in the fall, it usually portends the arrival of cooler, darker months.
Some species of ferns are particularly susceptible to changes in their microclimate. Translucent grows in shady areas of tropical forests, usually near tree bases or on moist rocks.
They depend on water and low temperatures, which are good indicators of approaching drought and high temperatures.
Since the 1980s, average global temperature has risen as a direct result of burning fossil fuels such as carbon, which plants deposited millions of years ago during the early formation of forests.
We live in a changing time, and understanding how plants respond to climate changes can help us prepare for the future.
*Sven Patky He is a professor of biologyEdge Hill University College, UK.
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