Growers Supply’s odds and ends – Strange plant facts and stories
To distract from the cold weather and impending end of the growing season, we took some time to look into the stranger side of horticulture, in order to discuss some fun plant-related facts and stories that many people have never heard. We have to admit, some of these are bizarre and in some cases a little hard to believe, but we promise we aren’t making any of them up. We hope you enjoy our plant oddities, and if you happen to have any lesser-known fun facts or stories, let us know by leaving a comment!
A bouquet of apples?
Did you know that peaches, pears, apricots, strawberries and apples are all members of the Rosaceae (Rose) family? That’s right, all of these delicious fruits that we use for pies, cobblers and more are all related to the elegant flower that we present to our loved ones. You can actually tell that these fruits are members of the Rosaceae family simply by looking at them. Plants within the rose family produce oval shaped leaves that are arranged in a spiral pattern, and flowering plants in this family tend to have a cup-like shape, so you may have already made this connection just by sight. Next Valentine’s Day, feel free to skip the flower lines and head right over to a fruit stand to pick up a dozen peaches, pears or apples instead. We of course wouldn’t recommend buying a dozen apples over roses on Valentine’s Day, but now you’ll always know that the two are in fact related.
Putting family first
Researchers have discovered that plants can actually recognize and communicate with members of their own species. Studies have shown that many plants can determine if surrounding plants are related to them or not, and if they are, they will share nutrients with one another in order to grow at a similar pace. The jewelweed is an excellent example of this. It has been found that when placed in a pot with an unrelated plant, both the jewelweed and competing plant will grow as quickly as possible in an attempt to hoard all the nutrition. However, if two jewelweeds are placed in a pot alongside each other, the two will not only grow at a reduced and similar speed, but they will actually grow smaller overall in order to accommodate for each others’ nutritional needs.
This is not the only way that plants can communicate with one another however. It has also been found that a willow tree is able to warn surrounding willow trees of bug infestations. When one tree has a bug infestation, it releases a pheromone, which is tough for the bugs to digest. When this pheromone is released into the air, surrounding willow trees detect it and begin building up their own supply of protective pheromones. With surrounding trees producing the same unappealing pheromone, invasive bugs and caterpillars are forced to leave, keeping the particular set of trees safe from further damage.
The priceless tulip
Tulips are one of the most popular flowers grown. With their brilliant colors, easy care and springtime bloom, it’s easy to enjoy everything about them. However, no matter how much you may enjoy your backyard tulips, you’ll never enjoy them as much as the people of Holland did in the 1637. During this time, tulips became so popular in Holland that the bulbs were more valuable than gold. This time period is appropriately referred to as “tulip mania” or “tulipomania”, and the bulbs of these springtime beauties were in such high demand that they actually caused the collapse of the Dutch economy. It has been reported that during this time, a collector of tulips once traded 1,000 pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, twelve sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes just for a single Viceroy tulip bulb. The tulip craze was short lived and came to an abrupt end, but the term “tulip mania” is still used by investors and financial advisors to describe a major financial bubble.
The loneliest tree
Many may know the story of L’Arbre du Ténéré, and while this story seems mythological, we once again assure you that it is very much true. The Tree of Ténéré, as it is pronounced in English, was the most isolated tree in the entire world. The next closest tree to it was an incredible 250 miles away. Located in the Ténéré region of the Sahara desert, this lone tree became a landmark for caravans and was so well known in the area, that it was actually marked on maps for a reference point. L’Arbre du Ténéré was nearly magical, a lone survivor in a land of desolation. However, L’Arbre du Ténéré is unfortunately no longer casting a solitary shadow on the barren Sahara floor. In 1973, a truck driver was allegedly driving drunk through the Ténéré region of the Sahara, and crashed into the landmark. Following the accident, L’Arbre du Ténéré was removed from its original location and placed in the Niger National Museum, where it can still be seen to this day. A metal sculpture has since taken the place of the once loneliest tree, and visitors come from all around to visit the landmark.
Have some fun facts or stories that we didn’t share? Let us know what they are by leaving a comment below!