From PBS Nature, watch as researchers Consuelo M. De Moraes and Mark Mesker conduct a series of experiments to find out if the dodder vine (Cuscuta pentagona), a parasitic plant that depends on a host plant to provide sustenance, can “sniff” out its plant prey.
“Plants obviously don’t have olfactory nerves that connect to a brain that interpret signals…but [some plants] do respond to pheromones, just as we do. Plants detect a volatile chemical in the air, and they convert this signal (albeit nerve-free) into a physiological response. Surely this could be considered olfaction.”
“It’s really amazing to watch this plant having this almost animal-like behavior,” [De Moraes] says. “It’s really very sophisticated and surprising.”
The study showed dodder also prefers certain odors. Given a choice of tomato or wheat, the dodder picks the tomato. Wheat may give off a chemical that repels the vines, which could mean good news for farmers.
“The fact that there are these repellant compounds suggest that you might be able to create a repellant or deterrent effect that would allow you to protect a crop against infestation,” says Mark Mesker.
Bonus: How many smells can you identify?