Plant Siblings Not Rivals

10-01-2007 // Hannah Schardt

A NEW STUDY finds that certain plants can recognize their siblings--that is, offspring of the same mother plant--and opt to grow together without competing. Evolutionary plant ecologist Susan Dudley of Canada's McMaster University grew both related and unrelated sea rocket plants, which are native to beaches throughout North America, together in pots. While the unrelated plants did their best to make more roots in order to outcompete their pot-mates, sibling plants allowed their relatives enough space to grow. Noncompetitive siblings are able to put less of their energy into root production and more into growth and reproduction. "People think of plants as passive--that they just grow in response to resources," says Dudley. "But here we can see some of the same complex behavior in plants that we see in animals."

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