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No. 27: May-Jun 1983

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How Trees Talk To One Another

Trees talk only in children's cartoons -- that's currently accepted wisdom. But when trees attacked by caterpillars sound an alarm that other trees in the vicinity detect and heed, some sort of communication system seems required. The evidence is found in trees that react to caterpillar attack or leaf damage by making their leaves harder to digest. When one tree is attacked, not only does it start making less nutritious leaves but so do other trees as far as 200 feet away. No root connections have been found.

In tests with potted maples and poplars inside plexiglass enclosures, the attack warning got through to trees in the same chamber but not to control trees outside the plexiglass. Thus, the warning seems to be transmitted by air -- probably chemically. David Rhoades is conducting further research at the University of Washington.

(Boling, Rick; "Tree ESP," Omni, p. 42, December 1982. Cr. P. Gunkel)

Comment. Question: How is the message received, decoded, and turned into biological action? If we could set up chemical "antennas" in the air around us, what other revealing messages would we "hear"?

From Science Frontiers #27, MAY-JUN 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987