The Web of Life (84) Plants & Animals

Plants & Animals

Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. ~ American ethnobotanist Terence McKenna

In offering treats as recompense for pollination and seed dispersal, plants have done their best to put up with animals. While some animals have been bought off, their appetites seem insatiable. Hence, plants evolved numerous ways of eliminating unwary predators. Poison is popular, as are prickly parts to deter attempts at consumption.

One of the great mysteries of evolutionary biology is how plants know exactly what it takes to disrupt the development cycle of a common pest or deliver a nasty surprise to the nervous system of some plodding herbivore. The answer is that Nature furtively exercises its own intelligence, only manifest in local effect.

Some plants turn the tables and consume the critters that otherwise would be nuisance. The actual numbers of carnivorous plants are much greater than the few species found in textbooks.

Despite decent defenses, being eaten alive by craven beasts is all-too-often unavoidable. Plants rely upon their modular development and innate sense of achievement to let bygones be and get on with growing their way past losses.

The regenerative powers of plants are wondrous. About 1,000 species can be reborn from a mere residual of root, and a few hundred can come back from a scrap of leaf.