What can be more peaceful looking than potted herbs on a picnic table in the summer sun? How about the tomato plants, beans and potatoes in your garden? More peace and tranquility? Maybe. But if plants could talk and if they could run faster, I guarantee you would give them more respect. As a matter of fact, the mental term “vegetating” would take on a whole new meaning. Plants are waging a war every day with you, me and virtually every other living creature out there, including the other plants.
The living world is basicly divided into two groups. There is the Animal Kingdom and the Plant Kingdom. Both kingdoms are in competition with each other and have, as far as anyone can tell, an equal desire to survive.
Nature has given each group it’s own set of survival skills. The animals are allowed to move freely about and have brains. The brainless stupid plants can’t move and just sit there and grow, eventually to be eaten by the animals. So far, sounds fair to me.
So, how do the plants defend themselves? They have discovered that there really is better living through chemistry. Every plant is actually a chemical factory producing some quite amazing stuff. So amazing, in fact, that it makes one wonder if they really can think.
Maybe they think the same way they move…incredibly slow. Slow, but looking at the bigger longer range picture. While the animals, with their big brains and speed, scurry around in the present moment the plants sit back and figure out a long range plan.
For example, how about if I could control my enemies population through birth control? What if I secretly fed them birth control pills until their population was so small that it was no longer a threat? As a kicker, maybe I could even reduce the males sex drive. These guys wouldn’t be interested in sex, and even if they get talked into it, they couldn’t produce many children. Sounds like a nifty weapon to me.
Well, that’s exactly what soy bean plants do. They manufacture a compound called phyto-estrogens. “Phyto” meaning “plant” and estrogens are a female hormone. These phyto-estrogens mimic animal female hormones. When a male animal eats soy beans he starts accumulating an abnormal amount of what his body thinks are female hormones. His sex drive is diminished and his sperm cells are less virulent. The enemy happily munches its way to extinction. (This might be something to think about if you are in the habit of eating tofu.)
Not all plants take such a long term approach. Potatoes and tomatoes, for example, produce a toxin that outright kills some of it predators when eaten. Chili pepper plants produce capsaicin, while not lethal, certainly gets your attention. Grain plants produce gluten.
Gluten comes from a Greek word meaning “to stick together”. If you make bread from wheat it is the gluten that makes the bread rise. So what do you think, the plants took out their chemistry set and made gluten so we could have tastier bread? Probably not. Gluten also does a pretty good job of sticking red blood cells together. In people it also causes acid reflux, Celiac disease and probably more. If you can’t outright kill the enemy, might as well take away his appetite?
So is it a flat out war? Us against them? Nope. Without carbon dioxide the plants can’t grow. Guess who makes that? And, without oxygen us animals would have a bad day. We need each other and we just have to learn how to get along. Actually, through trial and error, the cavemen figured it out for us thousands of years ago. Some plants are your friends and some like to mess with your chemistry.
As for me, I live like the caveman. I respect all life. I eat the friendly plants and when I walk past one of the bad ones…I usually give it a few whacks with my club. But that’s just me.