Posted on 08 July 2012 by

A Smelling Tale of the Dodder Plant and the Tomato


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

I was on Facebook the other day and was surprised by this statement.

Do plants smell other plants? This one does.

Then strangles what it smells.

As you can tell this is not only a statement but also the title of a book by Daniel Chamovitz. In this book, the concept of plants “smelling” is explored.

According to Daniel Chamovitz, plants do smell what is going on with other plants around them. This includes fruit ripening, plant death and even when a plant is being attacked by pests. At this point, one may be thinking I have been hitting the tomato wine but no really plants can smell and to prove it Dr. Consuelo De Moraes from Penn State created a simple experiment.

This experiment consisted of several mini tests. This included if the dodder plant was attracted to a fake plant or empty pot, to a tomato under normal growing conditions, a tomato plant in the dark and a tomato hidden by a ball. The results were unique. The dodder plant was not attracted to the fake plant or empty pot. It just simply grew straight. All three tomato experiments showed the dodder growing toward the tomato plant.

The next experiment placed the dodder plant in a box that was attached to another box with a tube. As you can guess, the other box contained a tomato plant and as you may imagine the dodder plant grew toward the tomato plant.

The last experiment that was done was to offer the dodder plant two of its favorite plants, which are the tomato and wheat. When offered this choice of treats, the dodder picked………..drum roll please…….the tomato plant. It was discovered that the tomato plant’s smell consisted of three different chemicals while the wheat only had one.

This fact is believed to be the reason why tomato plants are favored by the dodder plant.

The question remains if this chemical processing is really “smelling” is still up for debate. This year while you are planting your tomatoes in your garden space, take time to not only smell the roses but also your tomatoes.

If you would like more detail as to how the experiments were done please read Do Plants Smell Other Plants? This One Does, Then Strangles What It Smells by Daniel Chamovitz.

So until we blog again, science is a wonderful thing that can explain the wonders of the tomato garden.

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