Science: Plant v. Plant

Most plants are sociable and snuggle up close to plants of other species. But the brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) of California and Arizona deserts is a killer that tolerates no neighbors: it always grows alone in a patch of ground bare of potential competitors. Dr. James Frederick Bonner of Caltech has now found out how the brittlebush keeps itself exclusive.

About a year ago, Dr. Bonner and his assistant gathered fallen leaves from under a brittlebush, spread them around the stems of potted tomato plants, and sprinkled them with water. In three or four days,...

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