By Wendy Langhans
There’s a marvelous scene in The Wizard of Oz, where atalking apple tree slaps Dorothy’s hand and then asks her in a deep, gravellyvoice, “How would you like to have someone come along and pick something off ofyou?
But trees can’t really talk, can they? Well maybe not “talk”, but as recent studiesin California suggest, they may“communicate” with other plants.
Just last week, scientists at the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research published the results of new studies, showingthat “walnut trees respond to stress by producing significant amounts of achemical form of aspirin”.
Black Walnut trees can be found the open spaces of the Santa Clarita Valley.
We’ve known for thousands of years that an extract of willowbark relieves pain, reduces fever and curbs inflammation.
Tea made from willow bark was used by Native Americans to relieve pain.
But it wasn’t until the early 19th century that chemistswere able to isolate methyl salicylate, the chemical responsible for theseeffects. And it wasn’t until 1899 thatthe German firm, Friedrich Bayer and Company, first sold acetylsalicylic acid,which they called “aspirin”.
But this is the first time scientists verified that plantsemit methyl salicylate into the atmosphere. They hypothesize this airborne “aspirin” serves two functions:
It may stimulate systemicacquired resistance, which is how a plant defends itself physiologicallyfrom an attack by a parasite, microbe or even an herbivore.
It may serve as a message to other nearby plants, warningthem and mobilizing them to meet an impending threat.
We often see this defensive mobilizing behavior in theanimal kingdom. Picture a herd ofwildebeest gathering in response to an attacking lion. Or a flock of nesting song birds driving awayan intruding hawk. Or a Scarecrow taunting anorchard of apple trees into an apple-flinging frenzy:
Scarecrow: Come along Dorothy. You don't want any of thoseapples.
Apple Tree: Are you hinting my apples aren't what they oughtto be?
Scarecrow: Oh, no! It's just that she doesn't like littlegreen worms!
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Weekend Errands. Nowyou can recycle your compact fluorescent light bulbs at your local HomeDepot Store. Take your expired, unbroken lamps to the returns counter atany Home Depot Store. According torecent Waste Management newsletter, one CFL can save $30 in energy costs overits lifetime, reduce coal consumption by 200 pounds and prevent more than 400pounds of greenhouse gas emission. But carrythose expired bulbs carefully, because they contain toxins.
Saturday, September 27, 8:30AM. “Meet the PlaceritaBirds” – an early morning presentation and hike at PlaceritaCanyon.
For maps and directions, go here.
Sponsored by the Community Hiking Club and PlaceritaCanyon Nature CenterAssociates.
Saturday, September 27. National Public Lands Day. September27 and 28 mark "Fee Free Days" for visitors to the Angeles NationalForest in all areas where the Adventure Pass normally is required. For more information, see the KHTSstory or visit the Angeles NationalForest webpage.
Saturday, September 27th, and every Wednesday, 8:00 am. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at TowsleyCanyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderieand a heart-thumping workout. For moreinformation contact Steve Ioerger at661-291-1565.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report",brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by theMountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.