Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Think YOU’VE got a helpful neighbor?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Good neighbors reach out in times of need. But can plants do the same?

Meet Martin Bader and Sebastian Leuzinger from Auckland University of Technology. They were hiking in New Zealand when they came across a kauri tree stump. Despite not having any green foliage, the stump was still alive!

The scientists were curious as to why that was so. They measured the water flow in the stump and in nearby kauri trees throughout the day.

Results? The water movement showed an intimate coupling between the stump and its green-clad neighbors. During sunny days, more water was measured in the living trees to feed their foliage. But at night, more water was shared with the stump.

How is this possible? Researchers believe trees can share water and nutrients by grafting, or melding, their roots together. This suggests that they may actually be connected as a superorganism in the forests.

But more evidence is needed to confirm root grafting. To do that, they’ll just have to DIG a little deeper.

Until then, scientists are…stumped!