Candy canes as plant defenses

What would make a plant want to stop growing towards the sun and instead grow downward? Michael Wise of the University of Virginia studies a species of goldenrod that grows toward the ground for part of the spring months, creating a morphology that looks a lot like a candy cane. He explains that this “candy-cane” morphology could increase the plant’s defenses against herbivores. The origin and evolution of such a defense, however, is a mystery when so few plants disguise themselves by this morphology, which he likens to an animal ducking to escape a threat. Read more about Wise’s research in the December issue of Ecology (www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/08-0277.1).

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