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Plant Communication

Richard Kerr kerrr at CRYPTIC.RCH.UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Wed May 14 21:54:34 EST 1997

At 13:22 15/05/97 +1200, you wrote:
>gord at homostudy.win-uk.net (G K GRAY) wrote:
>> A plant in bloom needs pollination to generate seed for the next
>> generation. A costly way of doing this is to make a lot of pollen
>> and let it blow on the wind, which is the way with maize. Less
>> costly is to make less pollen *and* a cheap attractant - nectar,
>> which says in effect "Come and get it!" to the bees, making them
>> do some of the work the plant would otherwise be doing. It does not
>> imply the plant is *consciously thinking* although that is a
>> different subject that may or may not be relevant. It is
>> nevertheless communication, a transfer of *information*, being
>> closely akin to advertising.
>What information is being transferred? and to whom?
>A simple explanation would be that the plant is telling (isn't this
information flow??)the bee:
>here's a reward for doing my pollination
>but is it that simple?

I thought that the bee was after the pollen, which is made into honey by the
digestive action of the bees.  The nectar can be taken by the bees (as a
'pick-me-up') however the nectar acted as a lure to attract the bees and
encourage them to explore the flower, with pollination as a result.(how does
it lure the bees? I suggest by scent.  How keen is the sense of smell of a
bee? I don't know.....any one out there have an idea?) .

The information is flowing from flower-nectar-bee (i)
Also from flower-pollen-bee-other flower (ii)

The type of information being transferred could be advertising in (i) it is
genetic information in (ii) 

>Some plants leaf litter contains substances toxic to other species.
>Is this a warning to them, or simply a survival tactic?

Which other species?

If it was plant competitors, then perhaps it is a tactic to keep the
opposition out (a survival tactic, but also a 'domination' tactic, although
one could be an extension of the other).

If toxic to say grazing animals, then again it could be a survival
tactic....what would be interesting was if the leaves were a certain
morphology or colour and that there were similar leaves from a mimic that
were NOT toxic...I suppose that mimicry would be more to do with 'warning'
than toxic leaves, this would be taking advantage of the learning of the
grazing species...if the only way to learn is by communication (as a flow of
data in the simplest context ) then the plant is communicating data to other

Your thoughts?


PS: how can a music person be a Luddite, neo or otherwise...care to elaborate?
Richard Kerr.
The Murdoch Institute,
R.C.H. Flemington Rd, Parkville, 3052,
kerrr at cryptic.rch.unimelb.edu.au
Phone (61) 3 9345 5045.
FAX   (61) 3 9348 1391.
'The most interesting things about vertebrates occur in the neural crest.'
	Peter Thorogood.

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