Science: Trunk Call

Trees battle bugs with signals

There is nothing lovely as a tree or, apparently, as garrulous. So contend two University of Washington scientists, who provided the surprising news last week that trees appear to communicate with one another. Not in words, to be sure, but by chemical signals.

Ecologists Gordon Orians and David Rhoades believe they discovered arboreal conversations while studying the depredations of western tent caterpillars and fall webworms on Sitka willows. As expected, the researchers found that the leaf chemistry of victimized trees changed to make them less palatable and even harmful to bugs. Curiously, the same natural defense was also...

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