Some people talk to their plants. These plants talk to each other.

Like it or not, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital messaging services have become an intimate part of many of our lives. In fact, we collectively send 10 billion messages per day over Facebook! 

If we suppose that the average message is five words long (disclaimer: I have no idea if that's true, but it feels about right) and a novel is 50,000 words long, that means we collectively write enough to fill over a million books per day!


Would it surprise you if I said plants were just as chatty?

And if they're talking so much, what are they saying? 

Well, here's a couple samples of what a tree would say, if a tree could post to Facebook.

"Watch out for those giraffes!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, Hege/Flickr, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Acacia trees are thorny, green, and a favorite snack for elephants, antelopes, and giraffes. With so many big, voracious herbivores, you'd think they'd all be stripped bare in a day!

But it turns out acacias have a kind of mass alarm system. 

When a giraffe comes up and starts munching on acacia leaves, the victimized plant releases a bunch of ethylene gas. Any other acacias that "smell" it know it means danger and start pumping their leaves with nasty, poisonous chemicals to shoo the predators away.

And it's not just acacias. Sagebrush, willows, poplars, and tomatoes also seem to warn each other of attacks. Sometimes the messages even work across different species, although there's also evidence that different plants may use different chemical languages to encrypt their messages.

The messages don't just work over the air, either. Other studies have found that plants can communicate warnings through webs of underground fungal hairs (known as mycelium) that can reach across entire forests. It's like a big, fungal internet!

"Careful, I'm sick! Don't you catch it too!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, Gab997/Wikimedia Commons, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Speaking of the fungal Internet — evidence suggests that plants might use it to do more than just shout about predators. They might share health tips too.

In 2010, researchers in China discovered that tomato plants might use this fungal internet to warn each other when they're sick

The researchers planted a bunch of tomatoes, let the fungal Internet grow between them, then purposefully got one of the plants sick. Lo and behold, the sickie's hooked-up neighbors started taking defensive precautions like activating anti-disease chemicals.

"Help me out here, wasps!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, darwin Bell/Wikimedia Commons, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Ever heard the adage: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Well, some plants believe in that whole-heartedly.

We're not the only ones who love to munch on corn. Caterpillars also love to chow down on corn plants and, like the acacias, if a caterpillar starts to chow down on a corn plant, the plant will release chemical scents into the air.

But instead of warning other corn plants about the caterpillars, these scents are targeted at other insects — caterpillar-loving parasitic wasps. The scent is like a giant dinner bell for the wasps, shouting: "Caterpillar here! Come and get it!" The plants can even have specific scents for specific types of caterpillar!

And it's not just corn — a bunch of other plants do this too, including cotton and tobacco. That's not to mention all the other ways plants communicate with animals (like flowers).

We're just starting to understand how plants communicate.

OK, OK, time to stop anthropomorphizing a bit. A tree isn't going to start speaking to you, no matter how sophisticated these signals are (or what movies want us to think). 

"We are used to thinking of humans as the only organisms that are really perceptive. And now we're finding that – wow – plants can even do this.” — Professor Richard Karban

Trees are still trees. They don't have brains and are not intelligent, at least in the way most of us would think of intelligence.

And there are still a lot of questions and things to study. For example, professor Richard Karban, who is studying communication in sagebrush, says plants probably aren’t actually trying to broadcast every message. Instead, if they are signaling, they might just be trying to talk to closely related family members — with other plants eavesdropping in. So instead of a vegetable Facebook, the average forest might be more like the vegetable NSA.

But the fact that we're listening in at all is incredible. And maybe one day, scientists may be able to decipher these vegetable languages.

Imagine if, instead of spraying pesticides, we could "tell" plants to beware of bugs. A lot more work needs to be done before that though.

"It's an extremely difficult code and a really difficult problem," Karban said. 

But he added that it helps us understand the world around us

"We are used to thinking of humans as the only organisms that are really perceptive," he said. But as we've learned more, we've realized that many different animals are capable of taking in the world. "And now we're finding that – wow – plants can even do this. I think it is changing our view about what organisms are capable of ... and that by itself is pretty cool."

So the next time you go for a quiet walk in the woods, you might, in fact, be strolling through the greatest social media network in the world.

Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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