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Inside plants: It’s a small world after all

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By Kirsten Peters

I don’t think about the world from the point of view of plants very often. I mostly consider our friends in the plant kingdom as the stationary green stuff around me when I’m outdoors and possibly the makings of salad in the summers. 

But plants are also teaching me a thing or two as I grow older. I’ve taken to planting trees in middle age, I guess because of the emotional connection between trees and spans of time that are beyond those of a human lifetime. Nothing quite satisfies me as much as planting a hardwood.

Plants have still more to teach. They are experts in nanotechnology, it turns out. I’m trying to learn more about that realm — so I have good reason to pay attention to the lessons that can be drawn from the tiny parts of plants.

Just like animals, plants need a circulation system. That’s partly because they distribute the calorie-bearing “phloem sap” they make in their leaves when those leaves are bathed in sunlight. I think of the material that fuels plant cells as a bit like diluted Gatorade. If you are an insect like an aphid that’s intent on sipping the circulating Gatorade, it might seem all you’d need to do is fly over, land on a small stem, bite into the cells that are circulating the good stuff and drink your fill.  


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