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.
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:
A possibly related phenomenon is called crown shyness – 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 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 🥰
Heh. No worries. 🙂 And that’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
@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.
Oh nice! Yeah, that definitely looks like the same thing! What kind of trees are those...?
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.
Though it's worth noting that the image I posted above was taken in Buenos Aires, which is quite far away from the Equator...
@tsturm @loke @InvaderXan @sohkamyung the trees in the presidio are non native trees (https://www.nps.gov/prsf/planyourvisit/presidio-forest.htm) so it COULD still be some sort of equator thing
@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.
@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
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
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.
Sunbeam City is a anticapitalist, antifascist solarpunk instance that is run collectively.