Green machines

When I was in junior high, I saw a documentary about plants that utterly amazed me. The show was an episode of Nova on PBS called The Green Machine, and it used a lot of time-lapse photography to illustrate how “alive” plants are. They move like animals do, only much more slowly. They can coordinate their motion with nearby plants, and they are constantly nodding and dancing in response to environmental cues. If you could only look at them with your slow eyes, alfalfa sprouts would give you the major creeps. My interest in botany stayed with me through high school, and when I was in biology senior year, I did research at a local university on thigmomorphogenesis, or how plants respond to touch (people always challenge me whenever I play that word in Scrabble, and boy are they sorry). I was even a co-author on a paper on the topic… Computer-Assisted Image Analysis of Plant Growth, Thigmomorphogenesis and Gravitropism. Plant Physiology 77(3): 722-730. No kidding! Rush down to your local botanical lending library and check it out.

So I was very excited to see the new site called Plants In Motion out of Indiana University. It does justice to the wild sentient gyrations of our green friends. Make sure you look at the movies for morning glories twining, and corn seedling phototropism. Next time you stroll through a garden, keep in mind that those plants are watching you too.

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