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How do plants attack?

Updated on March 25, 2011

Handle with care

Ouch! How often can you grimace your face if you accidentally prick your fingers by the thorns of the roses? Poor you, if only plants could laugh because of your clumsiness. Even, the Father of Evolution Charles Darwin cannot or didn’t make a chart detailing the “evolution” of plants. Biologists cannot figure out how to conveniently and convincingly arrange an “evolutionary tree” for the plant kingdom. (For more concrete reference, check the book Plant-Environment Interactions for more of your readings.)

Silent Attack

Plants, mostly, cannot make a sound of their own without the aid of the air. However, there’s an exception if you can actually witness and hear the sound of a young bamboo growing. You can hear the groaning of growing plant.

Plants have no nerves, but that does not make them “dumb” (This is according to Dr. Richard Yen, a cell biologist, founder of a biotech company and advisor to the West Coast Chinese Christian If we chop off or cut half a tree, it can still survive very well. Try it on animals; it will not work well. Because plants have roots that nourish its growing stage while animals don’t have. Although, its roots are stuck to the ground, it can also move through vines and grow tall.

My first encounter with plant defense was with the makahiya plant. I always poke the leaves and it will close as if sleeping. It is really a shy plant, but later, did I knew that it’s their defense against intruders like me.

You should also be aware of carnivorous plants like the Venue flytrap or pitcher plant. If a plant can eat flies, how “dumb” it can be?

Bracken ferns secrete toxins when chewed by insects (A Natural History of Ferns by Robbin C. Moran, 2004). This fern produces hydrogen cyanide immediately after an insect bites into it. They are also loaded with ecdysones, hormones that promote molting. One meal and the insect will soon shed its exoskeleton and die! Imagine if we have this kind of hormone?! It’s more dangerous than a predator!

Molecular biology

With the progress in molecular biology, they discovered that ferns have self-defense mechanism. Although plants have no nerves, they “know” they are being attacked.

Way back 2006, molecular biologists counted 15 plants that are known to “call for help.” Corns call for help when attacked by caterpillar. These plants release a chemical to attract wasps which will come and paralyze, but not kill the diner. The wasp will then deposit eggs inside the caterpillar which will be eaten from inside out when the eggs hatch. Scientists in Japan confirmed that corns release more wasp-attracting chemicals during daytime.

The silence of the plants mean something. It can be danger to those who are abusing them.

Attack of the Plants


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    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @anon0-0 - Thanks for this valuable information. It will add clearance to inquiring minds, like me, about certain plants having the attack system to fight intruders, like human beings.

    • profile image

      anon0-0 6 years ago

      Bellsprout use vine whip!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @myi4u: There are plants that emit such very foul odor. Local folks avoid such plants because of its very foul odor, although it can be used as food for the livestock.

      It's their defense system against intruders, humans included.

      BTW, I didn't watched The Happening yet but been able to read the preview on Wikipedia.

      Thanks for your update.

    • myi4u profile image

      myi4u 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Did you watch The Happening? It's also plant attack but it's on larger scale. I know it's only a movie but I wonder if it will be possible for plants to emit poisonous stuffs into the air.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @crystolite: Thanks for appreciating, crystolite!

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Excellent hub which is well shared.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Whoa, adrienne2, thanks for reading this hub. We should respect the existence of plants because it helps us live here on Earth. It provide us oxygen in order to breathe. Imagine this planet without plants; I'm sure we'll all die due to oxygen deprivation.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 7 years ago from Atlanta

      Your hub was insightful thanks for sharing the info.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Coolmon2009, thanks also for reading it.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 8 years ago from Texas, USA

      Interesting Hub thanks for sharing