Boquila trifoliolata is a vine which lives in temperate rainforests in Chile and Argentina. It looks pretty unexciting, but that's just what the plant wants you to think!

This plant will mimic the leaves of any tree it grows on, or even mimic leaves which happen to be nearby. No one knows how it does this.

The vine doesn't need any physical contact to do this. Some botanists think it can "smell" and recognise nearby plants. More outlandishly, others wonder if it might have rudimentary vision.

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The idea of plant vision isn't quite as ridiculous as it may first seem.

Some cyanobacteria can "see" by using their entire single-celled bodies to focus light. A little like tiny swimming eyeballs. The idea that higher plants could contain similar structures (called "ocelli") has been hypothesised by botanists for some time. Among others, Francis Darwin (the son of Charles Darwin).

Here's an article from Scientific American with more info:
scientificamerican.com/article

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So plants may be watching you with a collection of tiny, tiny cell-sized eyes.

Watching you, but probably not judging you.

Probably.

A possibly related phenomenon is called crown shyness โ€“ certain species of trees will very politely avoid overshadowing each other in a forest canopy, leaving gaps between each others' branches.

Mostly trees of the same species will do this, but different species of tree have been observed doing this too.

Again, no one's entirely sure how the trees do this, and some botanists are probably arguing about it somewhere right now.

@InvaderXan This looks like one of the photos my ex-wife Beatrice Murch took of the tipa trees in Buenos Aires. I'm sure those are tipas, but I'm not sure they're in a forest. (And I'd be surprised if the photo was actually hers.)

@kragen
The photo's from Wikimedia Commons, by someone going by the name of refractor (sorry, I should have included that in my post!). Here's their Flickr page:
flickr.com/photos/72926532@N00

But looking at the details, this isn't a forest. The picture was taken in Plaza San Martin, Buenos Aires though. So there's a chance that your ex-wife photographed the same trees.

@InvaderXan Oh, yeah, for sure she did at some point. Also, I saw the trees in person a couple of weeks ago when I walked through there. It has a lot of trees but I wouldn't call it a forest.

@kragen
Not a forest to you or I, but I doubt the trees realise that.

Buenos Aires is on my list of places to visit someday. I should put this place on my list!

@InvaderXan You'll probably like the Jardรญn Botรกnico Carlos Thays too, then.

@InvaderXan oh, i was being somewhat facetious! but i wouldnt be surprised if plants used something the way bats use echolocation to get a sense for the shape of things around them, sans contact
they are very smart ๐Ÿฅฐ

@alana
Heh. No worries. ๐Ÿ™‚ And thatโ€™s an interesting thought! Some plants can sense vibrations and effectively hear. If you play them a sound recording of caterpillars munching on leaves, it makes them freak out a bit.

@InvaderXan it is known that trees and plants talk to eachother trough a underground fungus network that spans entire forests. this is probably how they do it. As well as they can sense eachother. They really are sentient beings. Tree's and plants even have a pulse. Botanists accidently stumbled on it, there is a half hour between the pulses. So they are not noticed easily

@Steven_Vervaecke @InvaderXan only some trees form michrorhizal relationships with fungi, ecaulypts, oaks, and confiers most notably, but not all do, and chalking it up to JUST that is probably missing some things.

@daylight @InvaderXan you are right, it is more complex than that. But i like the thought. I like the new 'school' of thinking. It is also known that the tree's form a network with eachother. whereby a older tree looks after a younger one. ITs a very beautifull thing to know

@Steven_Vervaecke @InvaderXan yeah totally! they really do shape our communities in such an amazing way.

@Steven_Vervaecke @InvaderXan and the wya nitrogen fixing trees allow so many other things to flourish!!

@Steven_Vervaecke @InvaderXan the idea that life is an endless arms race and not mostly interacting in beneficial ways with one anotehr really needs to be left behind,

@daylight @InvaderXan you are hitting my tree hugging weakspot. with the previous messages. yes indeed if we look at how nature is behaving. we can really learn a lot from Mother Earth.

@InvaderXan I believe I've seen a similar 'crown shyness' behaviour in some Rain Trees at a local park here in Singapore (Pasir Ris Park). Here's a photo I took when I happened to stare and noticed the gaps between the trees.

@sohkamyung
Oh nice! Yeah, that definitely looks like the same thing! What kind of trees are those...?

@InvaderXan @sohkamyung I'm thinking that one of the ways in which this could be done is by having the trees avoid growing into the shade.

It would also suggest that trees closer to the equator would have a slightly better success at this, since the sun only moves along a single line in the sky.

In what parts of the world do we see this effect? Singapore is 1 degree north, which aligns with this hypothesis.

@loke @sohkamyung
That's one of the hypotheses I've seen discussed, as it happens. Logically, seeing as most plants (especially forest plants) have shade avoidance mechanisms.

Though it's worth noting that the image I posted above was taken in Buenos Aires, which is quite far away from the Equator...

@loke @InvaderXan @sohkamyung I have a picture of the same phenomenon with trees in the Presidio here in San Francisco, so it's not just an equatorial thing. Unfortunately not sure what kind of trees they are - some sort of pine tree?

@tsturm @loke @sohkamyung
Nice shot! I realise I'm not entirely sure how many tree species do this, where they grow, and what kind of trees they are exactly. So far, the trees I've seen with crown shyness don't seem to have much in common, which is rather interesting!

@daylight @tsturm @InvaderXan @sohkamyung Possibly. But my hypothesis was based on the fact that the sun follows a more straight path across the sky over the course of a year compared to other latitudes.

If I was correct, then the trees would have a harder time to grow that way when they are moved further north.

My hypothesis seems to be less and less likely.

@loke @tsturm @InvaderXan @sohkamyung trees are really cool because the shape and adaptations have been reevolved so many times, that like, they ould all do it for totally different reasons / mechanis,s

@InvaderXan Those are Rain Trees (Albizia saman).

Here's a web site with info on those trees. [ uforest.org/Species/A/Albizia_ ]

@daylight @sohkamyung
Theyโ€™re albizia saman. I think thereโ€™s a reply in this thread which you missed. But yes, sometimes the English names for things are a little ambiguous, huh?

@InvaderXan @sohkamyung i just think its hilarious how unrelated these trees are, and yeah i did miss a reply with which species

@InvaderXan Seeing this makes me think of how awful people who use natural selection as an excuse to be terrible people, when in reality even plants seem to peacefully co-operate with each other

@Yza
It's sad how many people seem to purposefully misunderstand natural selection so they can try to feel justified in their douchebaggery...

@InvaderXan Another aspect of natural selection I like to think about is how it's not about individuals being well adapted, but the species in general. Diversity is really good for that and ensures a species is more flexible and more equipped to deal with different challenges. Even something that seems like a weakness in an individual can be a strength for the community. "Survival of the fittest" is such bullshit

@Yza
Diversity is key. And, in my opinion, it's one of humanity's greatest strengths. Suppressing our diversity weakens us all.

@InvaderXan Isn't it so cool! How trees communicate with one another and leave room for the smaller fauna and flora to grow, because they know that they need them to continue to sustain themselves.

It's super amazing.

I think I also saw a thing where they can share resources when necessary? Trees are freaking bomb.

@InvaderXan I read a book about this recently. Trees are incredible. They even talk to each other, in a fashion, and will work together to help a nearby tree that is ill by feeding it nutrients.

This was the book: amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Life-Trees

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