Around Mother’s day we see innumerable cards and posts with adorable furry baby mammals with their doting and capable moms (click here for cute pictures). However, this mother’s day I want to celebrate a whole other maternal kingdom. This post is dedicated to all the hardworking, loving, and under appreciated plant mothers out there!
While this story is less photogenic than tiny bears nursing adorably as their mama looks on proud and protective, it turns out that plants can make pretty good mothers who feed, protect and prepare their babies for upcoming weather. Check this out:
Some plants feed their babies – Did you ever wonder how baby forest trees in the shade of elders get enough sunlight to grow? Suzanne Simard’s research shows that mother trees in the Pacific Northwest actually move sugars into the roots of their young via underground fungal networks until the babies are big enough to reach the sunlight and make sweetness by themselves. Could this be considered a form of suckling?
Some plants protect their babies from harm and get rid of intruders. – Many plants release chemicals into the soil that prevent the growth of competing species while giving their offspring a better chance at survival. For example: For example, Leucaena leucocephala, the “miracle tree” promoted for revegetation and conservation in India, contains a noxious chemical in its leaves that stops the growth of other trees but not its own seedlings.
Mama plants pack a lunch for babies when it’s time to leave home – Each seed contains a living, breathing baby plant complete with a tiny roots and leaves. But since that baby plant may sit for years inside the seed coat waiting for the right time to grow roots and make its own living photosynthesizing, its mommy packs it a lunch rich in nutrients to hold it over until it can fend for itself. For instance, an acorn contains large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats as well as calcium, phosphorus and potassium to nourish the baby oak. Oaks make good mothers!
Plants prepare their babies for incoming weather – A recent article in Scientific American reports that plants exposed to warmer weather will pass on the information to their offspring to sprout earlier. The article details how the common flowering plant, Arabidopsis, hands down “memories” of recent temperatures to its seeds to prepare them for incoming spring weather conditions.
We are only beginning to uncover the motherly ways of the plant world – they might be more like us than we think. This year when you give your mother a bouquet of flowers, not only are you giving her bunch of brilliantly colored, delicious smelling sex organs you are also handing her a symbol of maternal devotion.