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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.

Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75

Lynch is part of a growing line of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory

Upon first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
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This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


Addie Rodriguez was supposed to take the field with her dad during a high school football game, where he, along with other dads, would lift her onto his shoulders for a routine. But Addie's dad was halfway across the country, unable to make the event.

Her father is Abel Rodriguez, a veteran airman who, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was training at Travis Air Force Base in California, 1,700 miles from his family in San Antonio at the time.

"Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday," said Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie's mom. She continued, "It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he's away. It's not just an absentee parent. He's serving our country."

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Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.