8 Things You Won't Believe Plants Do When No One's Looking

#4. Marcgravia Evenia Outsmarts Bats

So we've told you about plants that can outsmart insects, but maybe you didn't think that's all that impressive, since bugs are idiots. It's not like there are plants out there that can outwit creatures with higher order brain functions, right? Scientists didn't think so either, until they found a plant that could command goddamn bats.

Specifically, they found a Cuban vine they called Marcgravia evenia, which had evolved some kind of leafy satellite-dish attachment above its fruit clusters. Instead of being held out flat to catch the sun, like leaves are supposed to do, these were cupped and positioned to face straight ahead.

Ralph Mangelsdorff and Ralph Simon
Yes, they look like lips. And yes, one scientist did try.

Why? It turns out the Marcrgavia depends exclusively on bats for seed dispersal. The problem is that bats are blind as hell, but they find food using that annoying screeching noise that they make ... you know, sonar. The plant has formed those leaves to be perfect reflector dishes for those signals.

Tests showed that bats found the plant 50 percent faster with these special leaves than without. Their research also demonstrated that the echo from the leaves would sound conspicuously constant from just about every angle. To an animal who sees almost exclusively with sound, the Marcgravia is the "brightest" flower on the sonic landscape. That's right, it's a plant with its very own bat signal.

Ralph Simon
"No, Robin, it's not the Joker, just that plant again."

#3. The Dodder Vine Hunts Its Prey

The dodder is a parasitic vine that depends completely upon another plant for its food. It doesn't have roots or leaves, and unlike almost any other plant, it can't photosynthesize. In order to survive, it needs to suck the juice straight out of another plant. But it's not as simple as just landing in a tree and sinking its fangs in -- like any vampire, it has to hunt down its victims, a difficult prospect for any flora.

Daniel Nickrent
If plants made monster movies, this would be the villain.

But for the dodder vine, it really ain't no thing. Lab tests show the dodder can smell specific other plants and then grow in their direction. The dodder has such a keen sense of "smell" that it can also differentiate between a good host and a bad one. Once it slithers itself around an appropriate victim, it wraps itself tight and presses special feeding nodes against the doomed victim until they pierce the juicy flesh. We don't know about you, but none of us are going to spend too much time standing in one place from now on.

Collin Purrington
That tree could just as easily be your throat.

#2. Plants That Move Faster Than a Bullet

Plants are nearly universally defined by their total inability to move. You can threaten a plant with a chainsaw and it won't even flinch, no matter the horror that it might feel deep down. Or at least that's what you thought.

Actually, there are quite a few plants that move around with some surprising speed. None can get up and walk away (at least none that we know about), but the telegraph plant (or dancing plant) throws everything you think you knew about plant mobility out the window. Each of its leaves is mounted on a tiny hinge, and it actually twitches and moves around like the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter.

But the fastest plants use their lightning speed to spread their pollen around. The trigger plant will actually fire its pollen at a nearby insect's face like it's trying out for a low-budget porno. This plant sperm trebuchet launches its attack 15 milliseconds after it's triggered and hits with enough force to stun the insect. Yes, it physically staggers and disorients insects with a blast from its reproductive organs.

Holger Hennern
In other words, it can blast a load in your face before you realize it has the hots for you.

And yet that isn't nearly the most powerful moneyshot in the world. The mulberry tree launches its pollen at over half the speed of sound (nearly 400 mph). But the title of "fastest plant" goes to the bunchberry dogwood tree. It launches its pollen in under one millisecond. Almost nothing in the animal kingdom moves faster. The plant accelerates its launching mechanism at 2,400 times the force of gravity, or about 800 times what an astronaut might experience during liftoff. Not bad for a plant semen cannon.

D. Whitaker, M. Laskowski, A. Acosta, J. Edwards
"How many people has your ejaculation killed?"

#1. Figs Make Bargains and Punish Freeloaders

As you probably already know, plants and insects have a very important relationship. The plant gives out nectar, and in return, the insect pollinates the plant. But what happens if the bug doesn't live up to its side of the bargain? What's the plant going to do about it? File a complaint? Ask him to leave? The bugs pretty much get the sweet end of this deal. They get to eat for free, and maybe they'll deliver some pollen ... if they feel up to it after their nap.

Fig trees don't take that kind of thing lying down.

Rosio Pavoris
They take it hanging down.

Fig trees have a partnership with a particular wasp called a fig wasp. The wasp needs the plant because it needs food, and it lays its eggs in the fruit. In exchange, the wasp is expected to pollinate that fruit while it's there so the tree can reproduce. Fig trees can't reproduce without the wasps, wasps can't live without the tree. But that brings us back to the old problem: What if a particular wasp just doesn't give a shit? He eats the fruit and does whatever he wants, right?

Nope. The fig tree will get back at it by murdering its family.

"Those are some nice eggs. Pity if anything were to happen while they were inside my body."

Researchers experimented with this by introducing non-productive wasps (that is, wasps that weren't carrying pollen) to fig fruit. The bugs went about their business and laid eggs. However, most of the time the unpollenated fruit was dropped early, killing the wasp larvae within.

That's right -- the fig tree was aborting the young of wasps that did not pollinate them. Somehow, the plant knows when there are insects in its individual fruit, and it also knows if they brought pollen with them. And if they don't, then they get evicted ... street style.

"Figs play for keeps, motherfucker."

Check out Monte Richard's blog, or find him in the Cracked Craption forum.

For more disturbing behaviors, check out 6 Adorable Cat Behaviors With Shockingly Evil Explanations and 6 Shockingly Evil Things Babies Are Capable Of.

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