Editors' ChoicePlant Science

Sweet Smell of Communication

Science's STKE  03 Oct 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 355, pp. tw342
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3552006tw342

The aromas put out by plants serve to draw in insect pollinators, but they also enable communication with other plants. Runyon et al., studying a parasitic plant that is also a noxious weed, find that the dodder plant responds to volatile emissions from tomato plants such that the seedling parasite can rapidly locate and latch onto a host plant. Wheat, which dodder generally disdains as a host, releases volatiles that include a seemingly repellent component. The function of volatile signals in this interaction between plants resembles the function of volatiles in signaling between insect herbivores and their plant fodder.

J. B. Runyon, M. C. Mescher, C. M. De Moraes, Volatile chemical cues guide host location and host selection by parasitic plants. Science 313, 1964-1967 (2006). [Abstract] [Full Text]