Defense mechanisms are the automatic response by an organism in relation to a perceived threat. Examples of defense mechanisms, such as “fight or flight,” are very common when discussing mammals and other animals in the wild. However, plant defense mechanisms can be quite interesting as well.
Due to their rooted nature, it may be difficult to imagine what measures plants are able to take to prevent outside attacks. One may quickly begin to wonder, “How does a plant defend itself?” Keep reading to learn about ways plants protect themselves from threats.
How Do Plants Fight Off Predators?
The ways plants protect themselves vary widely depending upon the location, growing conditions, and predators by which the plant may be attacked. In most cases, plant defenses are necessary to avoid damage, as well as to ensure that the plant is able to reproduce.
When it comes to plant defense mechanisms, some plants have developed and adapted in order to adjust to pressure from larger foraging animals such as deer. Plants which are commonly eaten by wild animals often develop physical structures that make it difficult for the animal to consume the plant – like thorns or spines.
While larger animals may be deterred by the presence of thorns or large spikes along the length of plant stems and leaves, other plants may need more specialized structures. Plants that are consumed by troublesome pests or insects may require modification of leaf growth structures. Some examples of this include leaves with the growth of tiny hair-like structures or hard and waxy surfaces. These structures make it more difficult for insects to reach and feed on the leaves of the plant.
Chemical plant defense mechanisms are also very common. The production of toxins within plants is very common to prevent being consumed by predators. Other plants may produce chemicals only when there is a direct chance of attack. These chemicals are able to serve various purposes, including signaling danger to other plants, as well as attracting beneficial insects that are able to assist in the survival of the plant.
Regardless of the method, plants have adapted to the pressures of growing within their native regions. By choosing plants native to our own gardening zones, we can help reduce the chance of damage done by insects in the home landscape.