X Things Plants Can’t Possibly Do (But Do Anyway)

(A few people asked me to put up my full plant article so here it is, raw and unedited. If you’ve read my plant article on cracked.com you’ll notice a whole lot of differences. Sometimes editing only changes them a little and sometimes they cut them up all kinds of different ways. The pictures are almost all completely different. Thats cuz they would have had to pay for most of them and I’m beginning to realize they don’t like to do that if possible…and most of my pictures were of half naked chicks. They also tone down alot of my stuff. And yes, it’s pretty long. Cracked is super picky about plant articles so I over wrote this one to make sure I had enough material.)

X Things Plants Can’t Possibly Do (But Do Anyway)

Plants don’t get a lot of respect, cuz lets lets be honest, they don’t do shit. They just kind of lay around waiting for us to either eat them, cut them down or smoke’em. We barely even consider these things living creatures. There is nothing surprising or interesting about the shrubs and weeds we trample over every day. There’s just too many things plants can’t do…right? For instance…

Plants can’t possibly…

    Play With Fire

Lets face it, trees all have one huge glaring weakness. They burn really well. Nothing gives flavor to a barbeque like the smoldering fumes of cremated tree pieces. We use their desiccated trunks and shattered limbs to roast marshmallows over. We cut up their bodies to use as fuel just so we can singe fat and sugar on an old coat hanger because that’s all they’re good for. But it’s not like nature isn’t doing the same thing. Forest fires devastate plants by the millions every year and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. That’s just one of the rules of life. Fire fucking owns trees…hard. Trees don’t like fire. They don’t grow well beneath the hungry bite of a roaring inferno. Fire is a tree’s worst enemy.

“Hey nature, fuck you.”

Well Actually…there are quite a few plants that have adapted to take advantage of fire, such as Redwood Trees. Aside from being the tallest living things on earth Redwoods also have the thickest bark. This protective layer of woody armor can be up to two feet thick and is highly resistant to fire damage. This, plus the fact that these giants have thin watery sap and are full of pesticide/fire retardant chemicals such as tannin, makes this tree virtually fireproof. And in fact, fire plays an important ecological role in Redwood forests by clearing away competition and revitalizing the soil with nutrient rich ash…despite what that anti-fire nazi Smokey the Bear would have us believe.

Some trees actually enjoy a little bonfire every now and again and in a few rare cases, they actively encourage it. The Eucalyptus tree takes it’s relationship with fire to a whole different level. When it comes to fighting against other plants for space Eucalyptus Trees have a scorched earth policy…we mean literally. Scientists believe that Eucalyptus Trees evolved to purposely fuel forest fires. The sap is extremely flammable and as the leaves and bark fall to the ground they aren’t broken down by fungus like normal trees because of the chemicals in them, so they dry out turning into kindling. Even the fumes given off by eucalyptus sap are combustible. Austrailia is famed for the lovely blue haze that hovers over the landscape. That’s eucalyptus gas. Essentially forests in Australia are primed infernos waiting for a spark. While the Eucalyptus doesn’t seem to mind being immolated by hellfire (they’ve been know to explode and still grow back) it’s rivals don’t fare so well. It torches itself and cauterizes the surrounding area then pops back good as new like the proverbial phoenix…only made out of wood and smelling like cough drops. Only in Australia could you find a pyromaniac tree that destroys itself as a survival strategy.

“Some trees just wanna watch the world burn.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Call For Backup

Basically, if something wants to eat a plant then the plant is going to get eaten. Salad isn’t really much of a fighter. It’ll just lay there and make crunching noises while the more sophisticated life forms of the world grub on it. Hell, the stupid plant probably doesn’t even know or care that it’s being masticated by hoards of hungry herbivores. It has no nerve ending, no senses, no brain. It’s a dumb, helpless vegetable that goes great with dressing. It’s best option is probably just to grow faster or stop tasting good. How’s it going to defend itself? It’s not like the thing can call for help or anything. There’s not some plant version of 911 where they could call in the cavalry.

“It’s not looking good for you salad.”

Well Actually…it’s now believed that many, if not all plants, produce chemical alarms whenever they’re being attacked. These odorant molecules will attract the attackers natural predator. The Tomato plant for instance, has to contend with the voracious armyworm. Experiments show that the humble tomato can throw up a chemical smoke signal that calls in parasitic wasps to deal with the threat. And when we say ‘deal with’ we mean violently impregnate and leave their carnivorous brood to eat the poor bastards alive from the inside out. Tomatoes can call in it’s own personal rape piranha airforce. Here’s a video of the fate of an offending caterpillar.

And here a more sciency video with a few good shots of a wasp kicking the shit out of a caterpiller

But it isn’t just a blanket cry of distress. Plants send a shout out to the bug that specifically preys upon the type of insect that’s currently helping itself to the buffet. Tobacco must fend off the caterpillars of certain hawkmoths, leaf bugs, flea beetles, tiny mirids and more. For each of its opponents Tobacco has a unique chemical signal in it’s arsenal. It has a contact list full of vicious allies who are either really hungry or extremely horny. So yes, it’s like hiring a fraternity to do security.

“You know you like it baby.”

But these are just plants. How do they even know that they’re being eaten much less differentiate between who’s eating them? Scientists believe that plants can sense the digestive substances that the invading insects have in their oral secretions. Different bug drool sets off a different alarm which calls out to a specific species of vicious wasps or mites or nematodes…whatever the job requires. The alarm is impressively fast and effective for a creature with no brain, mouth, or wifi. It takes less than an hour for the signal to go up and less than 24 hours before a sufficient number of predators can arrive to deal with the leaf munchers. And considering that some plants like the Tobacco also produce poisons to slow down the caterpillar, waiting a day really isn’t a big deal.

“I’m calling in sick today. I don’t feel so good.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Recognize Each Other

Plants are not self aware. They are not cognizant organism who can identify one another…or much of anything really. Natures leafy greenery is a mass of mindless, simpletons without any depth or complexity to their behavior. Plant life does not have access to the higher functions that would enable it to even recognize it’s own seedlings much less relatives. The only thing a plant is concerned with is eating and growing. If some other bush or flower is sitting too close then the two of them are going to slug it out Van Damme Blood Sport style…just with a less blood and better acting. Plant roots will try to strangle each other and suck up all the nutrients in the surrounding area because they’re witless, unthinking, greedy bastards. They cannot identify, nor do they give two shits about their next door neighbor. Plants don’t help each other in the least. They aren’t altruistic in any way. In the cutthroat world of flora and foliage it’s every sprout for himself.

“You think this is a game? I will rip your goddam leaves off and beat you to death with them.”

Well Actually…some plants act in ways that would be considered ‘sharing’ if it were observed in an animal species. Typically plants growing close to each other will compete. Peas are notorious for being vicious bastards. There’s even a story of a pea growing for weeks inside a mans lung. Studies have shown that peas will always try to kill one another. Even if you split the seed in two they will still throw down with their other half. They can recognize roots and parts attached to themselves, but as soon as pieces separate they’re enemies.

“Make sure you chew your peas good. They’re mean little fuckers.”

But some plants are a little more savvy than others. When the common Jewelweed is placed in a pot with an unrelated plant the two will grow as quickly as possible, each trying to wrestle as many nutrients and minerals as possible away from the other. But when siblings are stuck together they actually rein in their normal root development. It’s not just that they don’t murder each other, they actually grow less than they normally would. Some plants can recognize their relatives and care enough about them to share food.

“I don’t mind sharing a little food and water, but if you lay your grimy stems on my gardener again I’ll kill the fuck out of you.”

Scientists are just beginning to unravel how and why they do this. By secreting certain chemicals through their roots related plants are somehow able to recognize genetically similar kin. Recent tests have even shown that chemicals from the leaves can signal that a family member is near by. It’s believed that some invasive plants have evolved this system for recognizing each other to help them gang up on other species. If all the other weeds and shrubs in the meadow are busy beating the sap out of each other then it makes sense that plants who use team work would have an advantage. So basically…they’re organizing.

Plants can’t possibly…

    Be Loud

You may not know this…but plants don’t have ears. Consequently, they cannot hear…at all. So all those people who talk to and play music for their beloved flowers are in fact just very lonely…or stupid. We’re going to share a little secret with you. It’s just a fucking plant. It has no audio receptors. It has no brain to process the information. It doesn’t have a play list on Pandora full of obscure Midwest garage bands. It’s deaf as a stone. The fact that it can’t hear anything you’ve said to it is probably a small blessing though, because as has already been stated, you are stupid. One of the main reasons plants can’t hear is likely because they don’t make any goddamn noise. The ability to sense and break down sound waves is of no use to plants.

“In retrospect stay out there and keep singing to the trees, honey. I’m sure they don’t mind that you’re creepy.”

Well Actually…if it’s true that plants can’t detect sound then why has the Marcgravia evenia developed ultra sonic beacons? Scientists noticed that some of the leaves of this Cuban vine were positioned oddly. Specifically the ones right above the fruit. Instead of being held out flat to catch the sun, like every other leaf on the face of the planet, these were cupped and positioned so that the whole leaf was vertical. Which makes no sense. The purpose of a leaf is to catch as much sunlight as possible so it can photosynthesize. Every structure on a plant is an investment in resources and these weirdly angled leaves are costing the Marcgravia precious energy. What could be their purpose?

“But perhaps more importantly, is this where red jelly beans come from? Science is racing to solve the puzzle.”

The Marcgavia depends exclusively on bats for seed dispersal. And of course, bats navigate by sound (duh). A few curious scientists wondered if these weird leaves could be acting as some kind of reflector dishes for bat sonar. Which is a totally fucking stupid idea because plants are deaf as dog shit. But their tests showed that bats found the plant 50% faster with these special leaves than without. Their research also demonstrated that the echo from the leaves would sound conspicuously constant from just about every angle. To a bat who see’s almost exclusively with sound the louder Marcavia would essentially be the brightest flower on the sonic landscape. Its a plant with it’s very own bat signal.

“No Robin, it’s not the Joker, just that fucking plant again.”

In fact, science considers this to be the loudest plant in the world, even though it doesn’t actually make a sound. So far this is the only known instance of a plant utilizing the principles of acoustics to attract pollinators. And as yet no one has answered how a deaf weed knows that raising and cupping it’s leaves will help it reflect a phenomenon it can’t fucking detect. Because of course, and this bears repeating, plants can’t hear a goddamn thing!

Plants can’t possibly…

    Communicate and Eavesdrop

Plants grow up and out stretching their green leafy claws towards the sun whose light they suck down like some kind of phototasmic vampires. Their roots wind down snakelike into the succulent flesh of mother earth. Groping blindly, hungrily for the dank muck and slime that sustains their unholy existence. Thankfully these hideous creatures cannot communicate amongst themselves. Praise be to the All Father that the verdant scourge is mute and stupid and easily dispatched with a weed wacker. If these strange alien abominations could speak and plot amongst themselves there is no telling what havoc they might wreak. What dark vengeance they might take on us for running them over with lawnmowers and laughing…

“I don’t care how good you think your lawn guy is. I promise you he’s not even in the same league as mine.”

Well Actually…science is discovering that plants communicate quite a lot. When a Willow tree is being eaten by caterpillars it produces chemicals which the bugs have trouble digesting. But amazingly even trees who haven’t even been touched will start producing that chemical. Scientists who have run these experiments check to make sure the Willows roots weren’t touching so they couldn’t be passing information that way. It was discovered that once a Willow gets chewed on it releases pheromones into the air that other Willows in the area detect so that they can ramp up their own defenses. So plants can alert each other when they’re being attacked!

“Thats the signal fellas! Lets get ready to kick some insectoid ass!”

But that’s not all. Plants can also signal each other when it’s time to bloom. If they throw up their blossoms randomly herbivores can pick them off one by one but if they coordinate they increase their chances. Safety in numbers. Overwhelm the leaf munches with sheer volume. And it’s also to help with cross pollination (tree sex). If you’re ready to reproduce (do the nasty) but none of the other trees are then you’re just wasting energy (jerking off). So not only do plants communicate, but they’re also capable of coordinated actions (orgies). No one knows just how they all decided which day they’ll bloom. Maybe they hold a meeting and vote. Maybe one particular tree is in charge and gives everyone else their marching orders. Nobody fucking knows.

Here’s some tree porn for your viewing pleasure. And remember, pollen=sperm in the plant world (so these people are totally getting jizzed on).

But perhaps even more amazingly Tobacco plants can understand the defensive signals Sagebrush sends out. Scientist cut sagebrush plants and tested how the nearby Tobacco responded. Old Smokey started producing it’s own chemical defenses. These plants are not related! That’s cross species communication between creatures that don’t have fucking brains. In fact, the chemical alarm Sagebrush uses, methyl jasmonate, is only present in Tobacco in small quantities. This is not even a warning signal that Tobacco uses itself, but somehow it recognizes it when it’s good buddy Sagebrush starts throwing it around. And scientists believe this isn’t unusual. It’s likely that lots of plants of unrelated plants communicate with each other.

Plants can’t possibly…

    Hunt Other Plants Down Like A Goddamn Vampire

There are a few inviolable rules in nature. Plants need the sun and the earth to survive. Anything else in between is fair game. Plants can take on all kinds of shapes and interesting adaptations. But to be a plant you’ve got to drink from the glowing chalice of the sun while also being firmly rooted in the cool dark soil. That’s pretty much what makes a plant a plant after all. Animals on the other hand are not bound by the tethers that anchor flowers and foliage, bramble and briar, trees and tangles. We are not slaves to the sun nor are we the helpless children of terra firma. Plants have to have sunlight and roots otherwise they’re fucked.

“…and sometimes the blood of the innocent.”

“Roots, sunlight and the tormented souls of the damned.”

Well Actually…there are a few plants that seemingly break all the rules. Redwoods can on very rare occasions produce what are know as ‘ghost trees’ or ‘everwhites’. They will bud a pure white tree, that produce no chlorophyll whatsoever. These albinos therefore cannot feed themselves and derive all their nutrients from the parent tree. Redwoods are believed to be some of the most adaptable trees on the planet, able to change their genes readily. Why are they producing these weird albino doppelgangers that don’t seem to be useful in the least? Is it a failed adaptation? Are they befitting in some way we can’t understand? Or are they just trying to creep us out. One of the world’s largest, most successful organisms is sprouting pale, vampiric clones and no one has a clue whats going on? Why the fuck isn’t science all over this shit? Well maybe someone should head out and take a look at these everwhites to see whats going on. Oh…wait. You can’t. There locations are fiercely guarded secrets. No, that’s not suspicious.

“The Michael Jackson of trees.”

But of course, the Albino Redwood is really just some weird mutation. Even though it can’t photosynthesize and it doesn’t have it’s own roots it doesn’t really hurting anyone. But the Dodder does. The Dodder is a parasitic vine that not only depends completely upon another plant for its food, but it also hunts them down. It doesn’t have roots or leaves nor does it photosynthesize (cuz fuck the sun). Everything it needs it sucks right out of the host plant. Once it sprouts the clock is ticking. It has a pocket of food in its seed that will last it for about ten days. It has only this small reserve to sustain it while it grows towards its victim.

Couple of Videos:

But how does it find suitable prey? Lab tests show the dodder can smell plants and then grows in their direction. It can also differentiate between a good host plant and a bad one. It seems to have a thing for tomatos. Probably because it mistakes the red fruit for blood. Wrapping around its host it presses special feeding nodes against the doomed victim and tightest is grip till they pierce the green flesh. Think of a blind anaconda with mouths all across it’s body that doesn’t kill you, but never lets go.

“Vampiric tentacles? Someone get Japan on the phone.”

“Mmmm…looks like spaghetti.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Mimic Things They Can’t Even Fucking See

Sight is profoundly important to most creatures who live on the surface. To be able to observe one’s surroundings and act based upon this information is a critical adaptation. There is a wealth of information available to anyone with the capacity to perceive the ephemeral spectrums dancing about us. And though plants are obviously sensitive to this incandescent opra they certainly cannot distinguish color, texture, shape or distance to any degree. The can sense the direction radiance is falling from and they grow towards it, but they are blind to it’s iridescent marvel, to it’s scintillating wonder. Though they suckle at the tit of the great flaming celestial mother a plants existence is swaddled in perpetual darkness and gloom. So no…plants can’t see for shit.

“The celestial mother is hot has hell.”

Well Actually…plants do a number of astounding things that can really only be attributed to sight. For example Passion flowers create small colored nubs on their leaves to trick butterflies into thinking eggs have already been laid on them. Since the insect doesn’t want it’s brood competing with anyone else it goes off to find a free leaf. The plant pretends to be infested and the butterfly totally buys it. But maybe that’s just a coincidence. An evolutionary oddity that happens to work out in the plants favor. For certainly the plant can’t see these eggs to mimic them.

“Dammit this neighborhood just gets more and more crowded.”

But even more amazing is that some Araceae plants have learned how to play sick. They create white discolorations on their broad leaves that resemble the mining tracks of caterpillars. The bugs avoid the leaves because they believe they’ve already been chewed on and aren’t as healthy. Not all Araceae do this however. About two thirds have plain green leaves. Scientists who studied them say that the plants who had fake scars were 4 to 12 times less likely to be attacked. This is the first example ever found of a plant who fakes being hurt. And ya know, just to reiterate…plants cannot see any of this shit they’re copying, much less make the intellectual leap that says a caterpillar would much prefer to eat a fresh plant or that butterflies won’t lay eggs if there are already eggs present. They’re like blind, brain dead artists who also don’t have a sense of touch…and they outsmart bugs.

“The one on the left had the fuck eaten out of him. The one on the right is faking it like a little bitch.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Hack Insects

It’s common knowledge that plants offer insects sweet nectar in an attempt to coat them with pollen (plant sperm). But so what? That’s nothing fancy. Dirty old men with candy do the same thing all the time. It’s not like plants are controlling insects. And sure, we’ve already discussed how plants produce certain smells that insects understand mean a plant is under attack. But that could easily be a learned behavior or something. It’s not like plants actually understand bug communication and are able to speak the language. Plants aren’t intelligent or manipulative or deceptive. It’s not like these chlorophyll coated creatures are cunningly coercing chitinous creepy crawlers with their clandestine craftiness or anything. (Nor are plants very good at alliteration)

“Thats it kid. Come get a sweet cupcake. Don’t they smell nice? Just come a little closer so I can rub some pollen on you.”

Well Actually…orchids can make bugs do just about anything. First of all orchids had a long long time to perfect their treacherous wiles. It was only recently discovered that orchids were probably running game on dinosaurs 85 million years ago. In that time this tropical flower has seemingly deciphered the pheromones that insects employ for communication and they use these scents to basically turn bugs into their bitches. It seems like Orchids have the cheat codes to the entire fucking insect kingdom. And in fact it’s estimated that about one third of the worlds 30,000 species of orchids don’t reward insects at all. They trick them into picking up pollen.

“Why isn’t there any nectar in this thing? I smell nectar here. And why do I hear laughing? What the fuck!”

For example, many orchids can produce the scent of a female bug in heat. The purpose is to lure the male in and coat him in pollen. However, some like the Australian tongue orchids recreate the scent so well that the male bugs end up humping the flower to completion. Science has actually found wasp jizz on the petals. Whereas most flowers give away sugar water this plant gives out happy endings? It’s the botanical version of a hand job? Orchids are whores? (guys, now you know which flower to get your gf for valentines day) Some species like the Bee Orchid not only gives off a sexy smell, but they make fake bee chicks out of their petals. So we can add ‘sex toys’ to an Orchids repertoire.

“And she’s always on the same plant…just begging for it!”
“Ummm…bro, why isn’t she moving?”
“Oh, she’ll be moving all right. She’ll be flailing and wailing in just a second.”
“Yeah…ok. What’s her name then?”
“She doesn’t get to talk a whole lot with my genitalia stuffed between her mandibles.”

Here’s a video of a wasp getting his jolly on with a plant.

Besides making perfume that the boy bugs find irresistible plants can also manipulate insects into attacking. Dendrobium sinense is a species of orchid that likes things a little rough. They have some how figured out the alarm scent bees give out when defending their hives. Besides sending bees into a stinging frenzy this scent also attracts wasps who hunt and eat bees. The wasps will swoop in and attack the flower…getting coated in plant sperm in the process. And this isn’t unusual for an orchid. The Epipactis veratrifolia species gives off three different alarm smells used by aphids. And since several different species of hover flies prey upon aphids they all end up pollinating this tricky plant. As an added bonus this E. veratrifolia is completely aphid free (aphids are like the mosquitoes of the plant world). As for the hover flies? They lay their eggs there…which die because there’s no aphids around for the larvae to feed on. Suck it bugs. You just got owned by a creature without a brain.

“Ok, so let me get this straight, if I deliver some pollen you’ll grant me three wishes? Ha, stupid plant. I’d have settled for two! You just got played.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Out Perform Steel (and/or Save The World)

Yeah, wood is a pretty good building material and all. Like, houses are made of it and stuff? But really, concrete and steel are where it’s at. Now that’s some strong crap. You cannot beat good old steel for strongness. And besides, wood takes forever to plant and grow doesn’t it? Like, years and shit. We’re mowing down forests at an alarming rate (probably). These verdant wonders are the worlds last great natural sanctuaries (or something) and our hunger for building materials is wreaking havoc on an environment that is already catastrophically out of wack (or we’re pretty sure anyway, haven’t really been paying much attention to the environment since porn became free, is that hole in the ozone layer still giving us problems or did we patch that bastard up?).

“If they did more porn in the Amazon it might raise public awareness of the plight of the rainforest. Cracked proudly supports green porn!”

Well Actually…it has been shown that Asian bamboo it is slightly better than mild steel. Tests have demonstrated that bamboo has a tensile strength of 28,000, which just beats out steels 24,000. It’s also roughly ten times stronger than the wood used to make your house. In some countries they use bamboo to reinforce concrete instead of rebar. Bamboo has the highest tensile strength of any plant or any living creature in the world. A short, straight column of bamboo with a top surface of 10 square centimeters could support an 11,000-pound elephant (or your mom). And it’s not even wood. It’s a member of the grass family. In the orient they grow grass stronger than metal.

“We totally didn’t mean that crack about your mom. She’s not fat. She wears too much makeup though…seriously.”

The other astounding thing about bamboo is that it’s also the fastest growing plant, with some attaining four feet a day. It produces 35% more oxygen, absorbs 33% more carbon than common wood and grows to maturity in 3 to 7 years. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol encourages the growing of forests to trap carbon. The less carbon in the atmosphere, the less global warming (duh). Since nothing grows as fast as bamboo and since it cranks out more oxygen and sucks down more carbon than just about anything bamboo may be the organism that single handedly overcomes global warming. In a dozen years a single species of plant could fix a world it took us centuries to pollute (while still supporting your thick assed mom). So don’t fret about that whole Global Warming thing causing rising tides that make us grow Kevin Costner-like webbed feet. We got it covered. Umm…someone is on top of this right? This plan is being implemented as we speak, correct? Hello?

“We may have to kill the fucking pandas though. They’ll eat our bamboo.”

“Maybe bamboo just needs the right spokes person.”

“And bamboo mats are a great example of the plants versatility that also allows us to show some side boob in an article about trees and grass!”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Hold More Data Than A Super Computer

Plants are relatively simple creatures. Cuz, ya know…they’re plants. They don’t have our level of sophistication, our verve, panache, dance skills, nothing. Really, how complex is a plants life? It just sits there and sucks up sunlight and water. It doesn’t have to hunt down it’s food or go work at a dead end job or get stood up for dates even though you went through all the trouble to get the tickets to a stupid play you did not want to fucking see anyway. There is nothing complex about the life of a plant and therefore they must be simple, dull, insipid creatures. We’re way more complicated.

“Plants don’t have to put up with this shit.”

“For instance, plants don’t have to deal with wives.”

Well Actually…many plants are much more advance than we are genetically. Everything that makes up a creature is recorded in their genes. The more chromosomes you have generally speaking, the more adaptable you are from an evolutionary standpoint. Humans have a respectable 46 chromosomes. Mice have 40, pigeons have 80 and carp have 104. But these aren’t even close to the Adders-tongue, an ancient fern like plant that lives in hostile mountain conditions. They have about 26 times more genetic information than us at a whopping 1260 chromosomes! No other animal or plant even reaches 200 and this thing has over a thousand.

“Hard to believe anything could be more genetically advance than humans. At least we can outwit possums.”

To map out the human genome completely it takes nearly 30 terabytes. One terabyte equals a thousand gigabytes. A good computer can come with one or two terabytes now-a-days. The Adder-tongue is storing the equivalent of 780 terabytes of information. How much is that in real world terms? All of Wikipedia fits in less than 6 terabytes. The Library of Congress has less than 300 terabytes of info online. Ancestry.com claims to have approximately 600 TB in its database.

“You’re computer’s outdated. Get a plant.”

What does this unassuming plant need with so much data? It doesn’t just have a few extra bits saved on it’s hardrive, it’s got a fucking warehouse of information. If genes are blueprints then what the fuck does this thing have stored in its schematics? Scientists don’t know and it’s probably best if we never find out. One theory as to why this plant has so much genetic information is that perhaps it’s backed up a copy of it’s genes a few times or that it’s merged with other plants of different species and possibly even genera. So this plant can join with other plants it’s not even remotely related to and just keep all the data? Biology 101 teaches us that this shit isn’t even possible. These things are the goddamn Borg of the botanical world. Should we be afraid? Yeah, probably.

“Don’t run. You’ll just die tired.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Live Forever

You probably would not be surprised to learn that some trees have an average life span of about 200 years. They’re slow bastards. It takes them a long time to do anything, even die. And besides it’s not like they do anything that would wear them out. They just stand there…and…do tree shit. But everything expires eventually. Something will take old barky down. Either bugs, disease, nature, old age, or some dude with a chainsaw who wants to build an outhouse for his cabin. Nothing lives forever. As mighty and regal as trees may appear, they’re still flesh and blood (kind of) and they will all perish eventually. Nothing escapes the Reaper.

“But maybe thats because the Reaper is sexy as hell. Who would run from that?”

“The Reaper also goes by ‘Bubba’.”

Well Actually… there are many tree’s that live well beyond 200 years. There is a Bristle-cone pine named Methuselah that is estimated to be about 4800 years old and is recognized as the oldest standing tree. There was an older tree right next to it named Prometheus but we cut that one down to count the rings thereby destroying what was one of the oldest living creatures on the face of the earth (chalk up another win for science!).

The plaque on the stump of old Prometheus reads: “So what if we cut it down. It’s just a goddamn tree.”

In 2004 science found the oldest living individual tree yet. This 13 foot high spruce is thought to be 9,550 years old. In Sweden that they call it, ‘that really, really old tree over there’. (You know, in America we name our trees. Just saying Sweden, you might want to think about that. Good for tourism.) Though the trunk is only about 600 years old the root systems of these trees keep resprouting each time it dies. So it it’s technically the same tree, just with a new body.

“That’s tree’s older than all of recorded human history. Bet it would make some great charcoal for a barbeque too.” Reason #47 why Texans don’t make good botanists.

Aspens however are probably the champions of longevity. Yes, Aspen trees are immortal. Sure, something might kill them. And maybe after about 20,000 years they’ll lose their ability to produce seeds. However that doesn’t’ detract from the fact that they can apparently clone themselves indefinitely. The clones will eventually lose their ability to reproduce sexually, but really, does that matter in the least? The Highlander’s sterile. Conner and Duncan McLeod can’t have kids, but do you hear any of their bitches complaining? Fuck no. Immortality equals badassedness.

“Truly, the Sean Connery of trees.”

Which tree thumbs its nose at trivial things like mortality? What conifer refuses to follow the laws of nature which clearly dictate that all things must curl up and die? Who’s out there beheading the other stalwart denizens of the forest with a goddamn samurai katana while absorbing their powers through the Quickening? The fucking Aspen, that’s who! Immortality rules baby! There’s also an interconnect colony of Aspen trees in Utah named Pando (see Sweden, that’s how you name a fucking god tree) that is estimated to be 80,000 years old. Some scientists believe it might actually be ten times older!

“There can be only one.”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Move Incredibly Fast

Do you know what the fastest creature in the world is? It’s probably some kind of fucking bird or something, like maybe an eagle…we’re not really sure. But what we do know is that it sure the hell isn’t a plant. Plants are nearly universally recognized for their ability to not move. That’s partially due to the fact that they’re patient and obedient, but it’s probably mostly because they don’t have legs…or muscles…or joints. That’s right, plants are crippled. They cannot move or shimmy in the slightest. If you were to yell, “Look out there’s a mad gardener with a chainsaw!” the poor plant could not even shrug in resignation.

“Vin vin vin”

Well Actually…there are quite a few plants that move around with some surprising speed. None can get up and walk away, but plants are by no means static creatures. The Sensitive or Tickleme plant is capable of rapid movement you wouldn’t normally expect to see in a plant. It’s sensitive to pressure. Touch the leaves and the fold up immediately. Here’s a video of a dude beating and burning his plants to make the point.

The Telegraph or Dancing plant is capable of turning its leaves slightly to catch the most amount of sunlight. Each leaf is on a tiny hinge. The little leaves wave all around to find the best position and then once they’ve found a good spot the big leaves follow suit.

Video with some crappy music in the background.

Many plants have catapult like pollination methods that produce extremely rapid moments. The trigger plant for example launches it’s pollen at any insect that lands on the flower. This plant sperm trebuchet launches its attack 15 milliseconds after it’s triggered and hits with enough force to stun the insect. Yes, it physically staggers and disorients insects with a blast from its reproductive organs.

“Holy Christ! What the fuck was that?”

And yet that isn’t nearly the most powerful moneyshot in the world. The mulberry tree launches it’s pollen at over half the speed of sound (nearly 400 mph!). But the title of ‘fastest plant’ goes to the bunchberry dogwood tree. It launches its pollen in under one millisecond. There are only a very few select insects who can move faster. The plant accelerates its launching mechanism at 2,400 times the force of gravity, or about 800 times what an astronaut might experience during liftoff. Not bad for a plant semen cannon.

“How many people has your ejaculation killed?”

Plants can’t possibly…

    Understand Aerodynamics

Plants have different strategies for dispersing their seeds. Some get carried off my animals, birds or insects. Some are catapulted up into the air. Lots of seeds are very light and get carried away on the wind. It’s important for a tree to get it’s seeds as far away from it’s own roots as possible so that they don’t’ compete with each other. If only seeds could fly without being dependent upon the wind. Stick some wings on them and let them soar. Not that such a thing is even remotely possible. There’s no way plants could have any kind of notion of aerodynamics.

Well Actually…the seeds of the Javan cucumber have wings. Not protrusions that kind of help catch the wind. Not oddly shaped petals that juts happen to give it lift. These seeds have swept wings designed specifically for gliding. The rear edges are even bent slightly upward to help stabilize it when flying. They’re the world’s original paper airplanes. They can glide for great distances and have even landed on the decks of ships at sea. The seed moves through the air like a butterfly in flight – it gains height, stalls, dips and accelerates, once again producing lift.

Here’s an incredible video of this plant in action:

In fact, these seeds fly so well that they were the templates for some of the worlds first airplanes. Igo Etrich, an Australian, and one of the pioneers of aviation, based his glider designs on the shape of this family of seeds. Cuz, you know, birds fly pretty well and all, but plants are the true masters of aerodynamics. His planes were very popular as sports planes. During World War I they were used for training and reconnaissance. One of Etrich’s flying machines even dropped the first bomb ever. Etrich also built the first fully enclosed passenger plane. These early aircraft were an important milestone to the development of modern aviation…and they were inspired by seed. Mankind’s baby steps along the path of air travel were aided by a plant with wings.

“Plant based technology.”


Plants can’t possibly…

    Know when they’ve been cheated and punish freeloaders

Plants and insects have a very important relationship. The plant gives out nectar and in return the insect pollinates the plant. But what happens if the bug doesn’t bring in any pollen? What if he’s not living up to his end of the bargain? What if he moves in and is a bad tenant? He plays his music till all hours of the morning, doesn’t keep the place clean, and gets wasted every night and punches holes in the walls? Tough shit right? What’s the plant going to do about it? File a complaint? Ask him to leave? The bugs pretty much get the sweetest end of this deal. They get to eat for free and maybe they’ll deliver some pollen for you…if they feel up to it after their nap.

Well Actually…fig trees have been known to abort the larvae of parasitic wasps that laze about or who violate the terms of their arrangement. Fig trees need fig wasps to pollinate them and therefore, to survive. The wasps are also specialized so that they cannot breed anywhere else but in the flower of the fig fruit. Each of these species is literally dependant upon the other for their existance. It’s thought that this relationship has developed over 80 million years. Some species of wasps actively collect pollen in special pouches and carry it to the next plant to pollenizing them. However some wasps are passive pollenizers, meaning that if they bump into some pollen they’ll take it with them, otherwise they could care less. Scientist wanted to know what prevents wasps from cheating. They could show up and just lay eggs and screw all that toting plant sperm around. Who’s going to know? And why do some wasps purposely carry pollen with them when they go to lay eggs in a new fig? Why go through all that trouble?

To figure out what was going on researchers introduced wasps without pollen to fig fruit. The bugs went about their business and laid eggs. However, most of the time the unpollenated fruit was dropped early. Once the fruit dies the larva inside will die. The fig tree was aborting the young of wasps that did not pollenate them. Somehow the plant knows when there are insects in it’s individual fruit (which can be in the hundreds) and it also knows if they brought pollen with them. And if they don’t, then they get evicted…to death. So the wasps that purposely harvest and carry pollen with them know they have to do this or the plant will kill them. Transporting plant sperm is like having the passcode to the alarm system of a house that will kill you.

here’s a video

Inside the fig there are three flowers. There’s a male for the next generation to collect pollen from. A long female flower that the queen wasp pollenates and a short female flower for the queen to lay her eggs in. The short female flower can also be pollenated, but the eggs of the queen will destroy it as they hatch. This is the place that the fig provides especially for the queen. This is her nest, her throne, her brooding chamber. She can do whatever she likes with the short flower. But if the queen somehow manages to lay eggs in both the long and the short female flowers the fig will also abort the fruit. The tree knows when you’ve screwed with the system. You have to bring pollen to the party and you can’t cram your eggs in the wrong hole. The fig is watching. Always watching…

About thelastmonte

I'm a ninja for hire An ice cube on fire A soothsayer and liar Deceitful, dashing and dire A menacing muse muddling meanings in the mire My mind tumbles around like a cat in a dryer When it comes down to the wire I get lit like a pyre Kicking hobbits out the shire In jet black attire like a cocaine supplier And I aspire to acquire your ire Oh, and I also do freelance work.
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4 Responses to X Things Plants Can’t Possibly Do (But Do Anyway)

  1. India says:

    I wanted to thank Monte Richard for writing his articles. I read the article “8 Things You Wont Believe Plants Do When Your Not Looking” a few weeks ago because it was listed on “Daily What”, and I was just like “WOW!” and I really wanted to share it with someone. Then, my soon to be boyfriend (:D) tells he he has to do a presentation for his college class and had no idea what to write about. I remembered this great article and I looked and I looked and I looked until I finally found it! I was so happy and i forwarded it to him and he was happy, he had found his topic for his presentation. So I wanted to THANK MR. MONTE RICHARD for writing such an interesting article, for not just writing dumb crap but an actual informative piece. THANK YOU!

    -Tis All ;P

    • thelastmonte says:

      Wow, thats awesome. Too bad I made up everything in that article though (joking). So I can pretty much take credit for you and your boyfriend getting together, right? It was my plant themed humor that totally won this dude over I’m sure. I’d like to know what he wrote the article about.

  2. Casey says:

    This is a very cool article! Thanks man! Hey, by chance do you have the sources for the The Marcgravia plant? I’m doing some biomimicry and i want to look closer into that!

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