Plant Fact or Fiction: Part 2!

Plant Fact or Fiction: Part 2!

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It's a spooky season and Nature Hills is back with part two of showcasing the strange things that plants can do and the unusual plants out there in our world!

So read on to learn more about Crazy Plant Fact or Fiction: Part 2!

The fear of Vegetables is called Lachanophobia

For every rule Ma Nature has in the wide plant world, she often turns around and breaks that rule before breaking the new rule once again!

Giving us an incredible variety of strange plant quirks and botanical oddities to enjoy!

Phyllophobia is the fear of Leaves

1. Witches Broom

Witches Broom aren't just transportation for those green-skinned hags in pointe hats! Witches Broom are also what abnormally growing branches are called. It’s essentially a form of sporadic dwarfism forming on one branch of an entire plant. Resembling broom-like formations at the ends of a branch, giving them a ‘broom-like’ look. These can also resemble an irregular section of dwarf growth on an otherwise non-dwarf tree! Sometimes so full of dead leaves due to the incredibly compact growth that it looks like a squirrel's nest, a Witches Broom is so much more!

witches broom

Typically appearing on woody trees both deciduous or evergreen, and some shrubs, a Witches Broom deformity is also known by the scientific names of phyllanthies, phyllodies, or chloranthies.

Naturally occurring, Witches Broom can also be caused by stress, from insects, disease, or viruses attacks. These abnormalities made for some really interesting dwarf plants and have led to a wide range of new dwarf and compact plant varieties! Cuttings are taken from the dwarf Witches Broom growths and grafted onto a rootstock at ground level to make plants like the Birds Nest Spruce! These dwarf trees are also used as patio trees or smaller versions of the mother tree.

The fear of the Cactus is Kactosophobia

2. Plant Mutants!

Mutants abound in nature! However, this kind isn’t the toxic waste kind of mutation. Fasciation is an unusual flattened, or wide-fanning type of abnormal growth that can occur on any kind of vascular plant! And it’s absolutely incredible to behold!


Fasciation can appear as if multiple stems or flowers are fused together, or they develop two to three heads while the rest remain growing normally! Flowers can appear elongated, stretched, enlarged, or even all clustered together into one like something out of a B-movie horror flick! The entire stems of some plants can appear squished flat into paddle-like formations!

You may have seen this in Dandelion flower heads, and everyone has seen the crested and fan-shaped Celosia flower that forms that appear as rippled brain-like or fan-shaped blooms! Fasciated flowers and plants often are encouraged, and propagated, and are highly sought-after for floral design and dried botanical focal points!

Alliumphobia is the fear of Garlic

3. Deformities & Abnormalities (That We Love!)

Imagine suddenly forming an extra arm, developing a section of hair that’s curly when the rest of your hair is straight, or one eye suddenly changing color. Sports and other mutations or deformities can lead to unusual coloration, variegation, size or shape differences, and even curly, twisted, or contorted forms!

double flower

Sports are genetic mutations due to faulty chromosomes creating variations from the mother plant. These changes can appear on a single branch or stem, and have created many of the most unusual cultivars and new plant varieties on the nursery market!

From a red branch on your favorite green shrub to a double-flowering branch on your favorite tree; sports and random mutations can be propagated by way of cuttings, grafting, and micropropagation.

Mycophobia is a fear of Mushrooms

4. Seeing, Hearing, Feeling & Talking Plants?

Plants are actually very aware of their surroundings and can communicate with their surroundings! In a way, plants can hear, feel, react, learn, recognize each other, and talk to each other!

Hearing Plants

sound vibration

Beyond talking to your plants or playing music for them, plants react to sound vibrations in the environment as if they had ears! Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered that plants react defensively in response to the munching sounds of caterpillars and other things munching on their leaves! When the sound of chewing and vibrations created by chewing were exposed to cabbages, they immediately increased the production of bad-tasting oils and chemicals that make their leaves bitter in their leaves. They learned that sensitive proteins in the leaves can perceive soundwaves the same way our ears do!

Plant roots were able to locate water by ‘hearing’ the vibrations generated by water flowing underground!

Talking Plants

Plants have been shown to 'talk' to each other - no mouth needed! Both short and long-distance, plants communicate by way of their connected roots or through the air by way of plant chemicals called pheromones.

tobacco plant

When one plant or group of plants is under attack by bacterial, viral, or insect sources, researchers found that nearby plants suddenly beef up their chemical responses and are prepared to be next! 

Some plants have even been found calling out for reinforcements like the Tobacco plant. Once a Tobacco plant senses it is being eaten by caterpillars, it can send out a distress signal in the form of pheromones to attract wasps - the leading predator of caterpillars! Tobacco plants also then send out a warning signal to neighboring plants to warn them of the incoming caterpillar problem and surrounding Flowering Tobacco plants then increase the production of their natural pest control chemical - more commonly known as Nicotine.

Plants also secrete chemicals into the soil, called 'root exudates', as a way to send messages to other plants nearby. Plants even have their very own worldwide web in the form of an interconnecting information super highway of underground fungal mycelium!

Thinking & Learning Plants

Sensitivity plant

We mentioned how The Blob in last year's Fact or Fiction can learn and solve mazes. But other plants are now showing they can learn too! What’s even more amazing (or scary?) is that plants are showing they can learn and pass their knowledge to the next generation!

Researchers have found that pollen has learned how to detect water and sense gravity. Seeds figured out they need to change the direction of growth when there is a rock in the way or they find more water in another direction.

Plants that fold their leaves in response to touch like the Sensitivity plant, and plants that were subjected to being dropped repeatedly - without being hurt - learned to not react to those stimuli once they 'learned' no harm was done to them. Even 'remembering' this new behavior for weeks! All this without a brain or nervous system!

"Seeing" Plants & Plant Mimicry?

It's known that plants have photoreceptors to help them 'see' light, but can they see other plants? An ecologist named Ernesto Gianoli discovered they can! While researching a shrub in Chile, he noticed that not all the leaves belonged there! The leaves growing in one shrub actually belonged to a peculiar Vine that had woven itself into the shrubs' branches and was nearly indistinguishable from the other leaves.


This Vine normally looked quite different, but it had managed to blend into the shrub's foliage by mimicking its leaves! Gianoli inspected other shrubs in the area and found this Vine was hiding among them as well! Named Boquila trifoliolata, this incredible plant mimicked other shrubs it climbed into as well!

So how can a plant mimic another? How did this vine manage to shapeshift and camouflage itself among many other plants, accurately replicating their leaves' size, shape, and color? Gianoli determined that this Vine could "see" and recreate the shapes it encountered!

How very Invasion of the Body Snatchers can you get?

Lepidopterophobia is the fear of butterflies or moths

5. Explosive Seeds & Fast Plants?


Plants with bombs and triggers? Since plants are usually very much bound to one area, getting their seeds out into the world can be tricky! Especially when you don’t want your progeny using up all their own water and nutrients by moving in right next door. So they employ Ballistic Seed Dispersal!

Not known to win any races - some plants can even move fast when they want or need to! Whether to catch food or spread their seeds! 

  • Jewelweed, also known as Touch-Me-Nots, has spring-loaded seed pods that can shoot their seeds many feet away.
  • The Squirting Cucumber uses water pressure as high-velocity seed dispersal that the slightest touch will cause the fruit to explode seeds up to about 10 to 20 feet!
  • Dwarf Mistletoe launches seeds 12 meters away so they will stick to other trees.
  • The Telegraph Plant can adjust its leaves to find sunlight so quickly that you can see it move before your eyes!
  • Peat Mosses are known to explosively launch their spores. Kind of gives you Starship Troopers vibes, doesn’t it?
  • The Hat-Throwing Fungi fire their spore capsules up to 2 meters away, while the Cannonball Fungi and the Artillery Fungus can launch spores up to 6 meters away horizontally toward the nearest source of light.
  • Hairy Bittercress can explosively shoot their seedpods up to 91 cm away!
  • When Bladderworts, which are carnivorous aquatic plants, are triggered by their prey, their trapdoor opens and closes in only ten to fifteen milliseconds! This creates a suction that vacuums up their food before it can blink!
  • The Venus Flytrap closes its trap in about 100 milliseconds
  • The Bunchberry Dogwood has flowers that can open their petals and fire pollen in under 0.5 milliseconds.
  • The White Mulberry tree takes the gold medal with flowers shooting pollen from their stamens in just 25 microseconds, which is almost half the speed of sound!

6. Generous Plants & Family Ties?

Can plants be generous? Helpful to each other? Recognize siblings and parents? Yes!

Plants aren’t all bad! Many have been known to send nutrients and moisture to a struggling neighbor through their intertwined root systems - even helping out plants of another species!

Plants also can 'sense' their siblings or other relatives and show them preferential treatment! Helping them along if they’re struggling! They share food and moisture and divide up everything evenly when their neighbor is a sibling!

Of course, Fungi and plant roots have an incredible symbiotic relationship. To utilize this in your own backyard, pick up some of Nature Hills Root Booster for your next new plant, or for your existing plants that need some extra help at the root level!

Mutants, Deformities, & Witches! Oh My!

Moving and reacting to their world, blending in and assimilating others, mutations, abominations, and explosive progeny! Plants are indeed incredible in more ways than you can imagine! But we love them all the same!

However, you may start keeping an eye out from now on, or not spilling your darkest secrets in the privacy of your garden now that you know they can talk and even move faster than you can!

Happy Spooky Planting!

Click here to see part one of Fact or Fiction.

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