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15 Strange And Lesser-Known Facts About Plants That Your School Books Never Taught You

10. The Skunk Cabbage is one of the few plants that generates its own heat, 30°C to 36°C (86°F to 96°F)  on average, much higher than the outside air temperature. This allows the plant to melt through the snow and flower while snow is still on the ground

Skunk Cabbage produces its own heat through Thermogenesis
Image credits: flickr(Ryan Johnson)

Skunk Cabbage, or Symplocarpus foetidus, which can be found in woodlands and wetlands throughout eastern Canada and the northeast United States, has the unique ability to generate heat on its own, a process which is known as “thermogenesis”. During this process, the plant uses oxygen to produce heat. The oxygen reacts with starch from the root, breaking molecular bonds apart to release energy in the form of heat.

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Studies depicted that the flower temperature remains steady from 30°C to 36°C (86°F to 96°F) even after the outside temperature goes as low as 10°C or 4°C ((50°F or 39°F). According to the biologists, the heat assists in pollination as it makes the flower’s fragrance more potent which helps the scent spread more widely so that pollinating insects can find them from far away.(source)

9. The smell of freshly cut grass is actually a chemical “distress” call used by plants to beg nearby animals to save them from attack.

Distress call by plants is given through Green leaf volatiles
Image source: neighborgoods.net

The smell of freshly cut grass, which is considered pleasant to humans, is actually a cry for help from the plants to nearby creatures. The chemicals that are released by plants are known as “green leaf volatiles” or “GLVs”. Plants also use the same mechanism when attacked by pests or disease, although the signals in this case cannot be detected by humans. Certain reports, however, have suggested that a device that could detect these evasive signals might be created in future which would be a tremendous source of help for farmers across the globe assisting them maintain the longevity of their crops.(1,2)

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8. The world has more than 50,000 edible plants, yet just three commodity crops—rice, maize, and wheat—that provide 60 percent of the plant-derived calories we eat.

Wheat
Image credit: Pixabay

A total of 50,000 edible species of plants exist on Earth, but less than 150 of them are consumed by people all over the globe. There is actually only three-Rice, Maize and Wheat- that provide 60 percent of the food-derived calories that we eat. Our incredible reliance on these three crops has put our food security in danger since changing weather conditions, and crop failures due to disease, drought and floods, have put immense pressure on the efforts to develop alternative crops.

Interestingly, to avoid any potential food shortage, “Svalbard Global Seed Vault”, nicknamed the “Doomsday Seed Vault”, was founded in Norway and is being used to store ancient seeds, both common varieties and wild crops, that are particularly resilient to harsh conditions. These could come in handy in a worst-case scenario, hence the name “Doomsday Seed Vault”.(source)

7. Fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

Fungi are more related to Animals than plants
Image source: upload.wikimedia.org

Researchers in a new analysis of genetic relationships among organisms with complex cells discovered that fungi are genetically more related to animals than plants. It was concluded that animals and fungi share a common evolutionary history, and that their branch of the genealogical tree split away from plants billions of years ago.

Both animals and fungi contain a component called lanosterol which is lacking in plants. Also, lack of chlorophyll in the recent history of animals and fungi strengthens the claims in this case. Furthermore, fungal proteins look more like animal than plant proteins.(source)

6. Playing classical music to plants helps them to grow faster. This was proven by a team of South Korean researchers in which they found that plant’s gene expression responds to sound waves.

Effect of music on plants
Image credits: pixabay

Researchers at the National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology in Suwon, South Korea, discovered and conclusively proved that music helped in the growth of plants. The experiment, led by Mi-Jeong Jeong, involved keeping the plants in conditions without any light at all, and playing music while the response of genes was monitored. The study found that gene expression, the process by which a plant’s DNA code is translated into instructions for biological processes such as growth, responded favorably to the sound waves.

The researchers noted that sounds at 125Hz and 250Hz made genes rbcS and Ald, that are known to respond to light, more active whereas sound waves at 50HZ made these genes less active. The experiment was done by playing 14 different classical pieces to rice plants.(source)

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