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Plant Kin Help

July 12, 2007

Plants are more generous to kin than strangers.


How plants are kinder to kin. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some plants not only recognize their family members: they even treat them more generously than they treat strangers. Plant ecologists Susan Dudley and Amanda File, of McMaster University in Canada, discovered this among plants called sea rockets. Normally, when unrelated sea rockets are potted together, they grow longer roots than they would on their own – to better compete for limited water and nutrients. But Dudley says things were different when they potted the plants with their siblings.

SUSAN DUDLEY (McMaster University, Canada):
The siblings basically didn’t respond to sharing the pots. So they didn’t make this competitive response, while the strangers did.

Since some other plants might share this behavior, Dudley says gardeners may get better results by planting crops near family. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.