Operating Hours:Late Summer
Friday 9am - 12pm
We know that the animal and insect species can communicate to each other but do you ever wonder if the nature's vegetation can? Under the forest floor there is a web of life and one tree species the Douglas fir has been found that it can talk by forming an underground symbiotic relationship called "mycorrhizae". The tallness and age of the tree will determine how much access there is to sunlight and these trees are called "hub" trees that will produce more sugar than they need. The smaller fir has less access to light and will tap into the network of resources produced by the hub trees and this sharing is not only for the fir but other trees such as the birch benefits from this network. Stressed trees will release water as a stress mechanism that signals other trees along the network and depending on the stress the "hub tree" may release more sugar. This relationship is also formed with the fungi that relies upon nutrients the Douglas fir releases into the soil. When the fungi relays stress signals the fir will share the abundant sugar that it produces. Once the fungi receives the needed sugar then it in turn releases the phosphorus and nitrogen and by doing so creates a neighboring relationship network with the fir and other plants.
Plants that have mycorrhizal connections were also able to repel aphids by attracting the wasp that feed on the pesky aphid. These plants will send out warnings along the network to the neighboring plants alerting them to herbivore attacks and of impending droughts. Under scientific study it was noted "that once the drought started the stressed plant closed its stomata, as did its nearest unstressed neighbor, suggesting some sort of drought warning sign had been passed between the two. After an hour, all other neighboring plants each more distant from the drought stressed plant had also shuttered their stomata, indicating that they too received the message to prepare for drought".
During the recent weeks of little to no rain and warmer than average temperatures many trees and shrubs have been seen dropping leaves. Drought symptoms appear different on certain species and they may drop all their leaves and appear dead. The dropping of the leaves is the indication the tree is preparing for the drought and to use less water to protect the root system for future new growth . Most trees will recover when water returns but considering the season they may stay in the dormant stage until spring. In a way trees and grasses are communicating to man by letting them know things are getting and staying dry. Don't expect the trees at the Nature Center to act like those in an animated movie and use their branches to reach out and grab the trail walker but the more avid nature lover will recognize the communication signal the trees are emitting. Leaves turning yellow or brown and dropping before the fall season foliage change is a very good indication that the plant is becoming stressed.
The Joe Ford Nature Center loves to communicate with our visitors, Facebook and web page friends but as the cooler seasons approaches that means less activity which becomes less revenue for the Center. There are several ways to make a donation: $50 for a memory plaque placed upon a trail bench, or any other amount by check, credit card or cash made directly to the Center. Donations make it possible for the Center to continue programs and activities. Please consider being a part in the nature relationship network with the Joe Ford Nature Center.