Geek Trivia

The Vine B. Trifoliolata Is The Only Plant In The World Known To?

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Answer: Shape Shift

In early 2014, researchers announced the discovery of the first known plant that actively changes its appearance, chameleon like, to that of its host plant. There are more than a few examples of plants that have evolved to look like a particular host (as as the case of certain mistletoe species evolving to have leaves similar in appearance to the host plant they attach themselves to), but the discovery of the vine B. Trifoliolata in Chile and Argentina injected a new twist into the realm of plant-mimicry.

B. Trifoliolata doesn’t simply mimic a single host, it has been observed to mimic dozens of plants throughout the region, adapting on the fly to each new host it attaches itself to. Spade-like ivy leaves, long narrow arrow-shaped leaves, rounded leaves, whatever the host plant has the vine will adapt in shape and coloration to blend in and mimic. Even the vein patterns of the leaves on the vine adapt to the patterns on the host. Researchers believe the vine takes on the appearance of the host plants in order to gain a sort of umbrella protection from the predators that have learned not to eat the host plant on account of bitterness, illness, or other deterrent.

At this time the mechanism by which the vine detects and mimics the host plant is unknown, but the researchers theorize the vine may detect microbes on the host plant or chemical signals from the host’s leaves to determine which genes to express in order to take on the shape of the host.

Image courtesy of Gianoli E.