In his famous fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings, British writer and Professor of English Language and Literature, J. R. R. Tolkien, invented the Ents: tree‐like creatures who were some of the oldest beings in his fantasy world of Middle‐earth. In Tolkien's story, the Ents used a unique and ancient language to communicate with each other in a very deliberate way. Tolkien described this language as “unhasty” and “slow, sonorous, agglomerated, repetitive, indeed long‐winded”.
… the intriguing idea of plants chatting with each other proved fascinating to the general public
Of course, Entish is a fantasy language, but the idea of a “language of trees” touches on the real‐world question of whether plants actually do communicate. In 1983, Ian T. Baldwin and Jack C. Schultz answered this question in an article in Science: “Rapid Changes in Tree Leaf Chemistry Induced by Damage: Evidence for Communication Between Plants”. In their paper, Baldwin and Schultz suggested that airborne signals originating from damaged plant tissues stimulate biochemical changes in adjacent plants. These changes in turn affect or deter herbivorous insects . The publication inspired numerous articles, features, and comments in the press about “talking trees”—the intriguing idea of plants chatting with each other proved fascinating to the general public.
Nevertheless, although they do not chat in Entish, plants do communicate. In a very basic sense, and according to Shannon & Weaver's The mathematical theory of communication (1963), communication involves a sender, a signal, and a receiver, the last of which is able to recognize and decode the signal. Plant communication definitely fits this model (Fig 1). However, communication between living organisms is actually much older than the 450 million years that land plants have lived on land. The oldest form of communication is probably the chemical interactions that …
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