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May 9, 2014
Plants Are People Too
It is natural for us to break the world up into parts and pieces in order to better understand it. Thus we think of atoms, molecules, amino acids, proteins, vitamins, protozoa, fish, birds, reptiles, plants, people... The sciences reflect this dividedness as well: zoology, botany, chemistry, physics, microbiology, social science, astronomy, physiology, psychology...
We also like to think of ourselves as above other creatures and distinct from them. Most religions are built upon and promote this premise.
But our world is not really comprised of parts. It is one, holistic, interconnected, and fundamentally made of the same stuff. Quantum physics bears this out making the old world view of separate parts and pieces obsolete.
I talk about this at length in my new book, but there is also proof lying under the dirt in your backyard.
Because we consider ourselves superior, we think of plants as dumb, void of feelings, and simply a resource or food for us. However, they do have sentience, less than us in some respects, and more in others. Plants such as barley and potatoes even have a larger genome than us "superior" creatures.
This and the information that follows create a dilemma for anyone wrestling with how to eat without killing something.
For some time it has been argued that plants are more than a substrate, fuel, food, oxygen source, and resource for us humans. There are those who suggest that plants have feelings, respond to love, and even grieve. Vegans and vegetarians disagree since this challenges the premise of their beliefs: animals feel; plants don't.
I will not get into the arguments underlying the purported emotional and spiritual aspect of plants here. If interested, just do a search using this phrase in your Internet search bar: Do plants feel and love.
Here I would like to talk about physical aspects of plants based upon scientific facts recently discovered.
Plants talk to one another and to other creatures. It is a molecular language, not one of voices, but nonetheless lively and informative. But where is it written in stone that language can only mean mouths and vocal cords?
For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as methyl salicylate, are released from plants when attacked by aphids. These VOC communications travel through the air to other plants telling them to emit other kinds of VOCs including insecticides and other molecules telling aphids to back off. A VOC message also goes out to aphid hunting wasps inviting them to come. That's a lot of sense and communication for just a dumb plant!
There is conversation going on below ground too. The roots of plants are in symbiosis with mycorrhizal soil fungi that connect roots of various plants by means of microscopic threadlike hyphae. These cellular hyphae interlace to create a web mycelium spreading through the ground. The mushrooms seen at the surface are just the reproductive flowering bodies of the underlying mycelium.
Ectomycorrhizal fungi have hyphae that enter the roots of plants and intercalate between the root cells. Endomycorrhizal fungi enter not only the roots but also penetrate into the cytoplasm of the root cells. The mycelium forms a dense sheath around the root and sends out hyphal voyagers through the soil. This symbiosis vastly extends the root system of the plant. What we see visually as roots are but a tiny fraction of the effective root system of plants made possible by the association with mycorrhizal mycelium.
This symbiotic intimacy permits the fungi to feed on photosynthetic nutrients created by the tree. The tree benefits from the water, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and other soil bound minerals brought to it by the fungal hyphae. Due to the range of the hyphal web, a plant may receive communication and nutrients from miles away. Young plants connected to the network can "nurse" from the older established plants.
Plant roots produce and release specific molecules (words, sentences, paragraphs), such as flavonoids and strigolactones, that attract fungal hyphae and encourage hyphal branching. Hyphae next to plant roots release lipopolysaccharides that inform the plant of their presence. Plant recognition (hearing) of specific lipopolysaccharides from mycorrhizal fungi readies the plant for the partnership.
Communication (soluble compounds traveling along the hyphae) between plants occurs through this network to recognize kin and warn of attacks by herbivores and pathogens. Impending droughts cause plants to send alerts to receiver plants to close off their stomata to lessen the loss of moisture. They then relay the message on to other plants via the hyphal phone lines.
The mycelium interconnecting the roots of plants can extend out over square miles making the fungal organism the largest living creature on the planet. The hyphae in the mycelium of just a half of a square inch of soil can be eight miles. Any plant embedded in this foraging and communication network can benefit from it.
Plants are also believed to communicate by ultrasonic sounds and hear acoustic clues from neighbors.
There is even altruism in plants in the respect that warnings can be received and acted upon by plants of different species than the speaker plant.
But favoritism (plant racism) exists too. Plants among strangers will proliferate nutrient grabbing roots. Among its brethren it will restrain itself. Similarly, plants will reduce leaf growth when next to family to permit light to be shared. On the other hand, by using exuberant leaf growth they will smother plants not of their kind.
Plants reflect us humans in intelligence and foibles.
These realizations just now coming to light about "lowly" plants help us understand that the categories we impose upon our world are naïve. We are not apex nor separate from the rest of creation. That is a delusion. We are merely eddies in a stream.
Coming to this understanding should engender a humble, respectful, caring and nurturing attitude. That is not only what is needed for sustainability of our world, but for our own health as well.
The Wysong Directory of Alternative Resources is a guide to alternative sources of health care, self-improvement, environmental improvement and much more. Over 335 Resources. This is where you turn when you have a problem that is not being solved, want an alternative medical second opinion, and want help getting control of your own health destiny. Updated weekly and currently over 60 pages front and back.
Below is a sampling of the helpful resources you can use to take control of your own health destiny, listed in the Wysong Resource Directory:
Local Dirt (w) http://www.localdirt.com/ (p) 608.554.4800
Online Marketplace to buy, sell and find local organic, grass-fed, heirloom or free-range food sources. Also offers a free smartphone app.
100 Days of Real Food (w) http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ Web blog started by a family of 4 that pledged to eliminate junk foods and only eat real, unprocessed foods. Has tips for planning real food meals, health benefits, recipes, help with adapting children to fresh foods, school lunch ideas as well as budgeting ideas.
The Wysong Healthletter is now well into its third decade of continuous publication. It is offered free to help you make a better you and a better world.
I long ago came to realize that the most worthy role of any doctor is to teach people how not to need them. This led me away from practice where treating symptoms is the primary tool and a misinformed public has come to expect magic bullet cures. But no disease is ever caused by the lack of a drug, and no treatment—save that for trauma or defect—ever improves an organism. Medical intervention is, in fact, now the number one cause of death and suffering in our modern world.
Illness, in large part, comes from wrong thinking. Health requires an open-minded, fact-based philosophy of life and an ambition to make yourself the best you can be. Thoughtlessly following convention and laziness are irreconcilable with health.
Wellness requires a deep respect for the great unknowns of life and the power of natural healing forces. Pretending that we can command nature and that the body is a mere machine that can be manipulated with impunity by "experts" is an illusion of both professionals and the public.
So it is my hope that this newsletter will help you to take control of your own health destiny, trust the healing powers within and in nature, and understand that ultimately wellbeing is about what you do to yourself, not what someone else can do to you.
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