August 02, 2016
from MessageToEagle Website






The remarkable and secret world of plants is full of discoveries that astonish us.


Plants are much more complex and intelligent that we have previously believed. Not only can they sing, dance, avoid predators and much more, but they also contain hidden maps and surprises that reveal they share many similar properties with humans.

In this top list we present ten fascinating facts about plants - prepare yourself for some true amazement!


1. Plants Can Sing and Make Music




Plants are very much alive.


Have you ever heard the incredible music of the plants? Plants can actually sing and compose music and listening to it is truly beautiful and relaxing!

Ever since 1975, researchers at Damanhur, in northern Italy have been experimenting with plants, trying to lean more about their unique properties.

Researchers use devices which they have created to measure the re-activity of the plants to their environment. The devices judge the plants' capacity to learn and communicate.

Using a simple principle, the researchers used a variation of the Wheatstone bridge, an electrical circuit used to measure an unknown electrical resistance by balancing two legs of a bridge circuit, one leg of which includes the unknown component.


Although there is currently little scientific research conducted on this subject, one cannot deny that listen to these beautiful plants is a joy for the soul. Listen for yourself!



2. Human Noise Has a Negative Effect on Plants

A growing body of research shows that birds and other animals change their behavior in response to human noise, such as the din of traffic or the hum of machinery.

But human clamor doesn't just affect animals.

Because many animals also pollinate plants or eat or disperse their seeds, human noise can have ripple effects on plants, too, finds a new study reported in the March 21, 2012, issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In cases where noise has ripple effects on long-lived plants like trees, the consequences could last for decades, even after the source of the noise goes away, says lead author Clinton Francis of the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

In previous studies, Francis and colleagues found that some animals increase in numbers near noisy sites, while others decline.

But could animals' different responses to human noise have indirect effects on plants, too?


Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area in New Mexico

was the site of the noise research.
Credit: Bureau of Land Management

To find out, the researchers conducted a series of experiments from 2007 to 2010 in the Bureau of Land Management's Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area in northwestern New Mexico.

The region is home to thousands of natural gas wells, many of which are coupled with noisy compressors for extracting the gas and transporting it through pipelines.

The compressors roar and rumble day and night, every day of the year.

The advantage of working in natural gas sites is they allow scientists to study noise and its effects on wildlife without the confounding factors in noisy areas like roadways or cities, such as pollution from artificial light and chemicals, or collisions with cars.

As part of their research, Francis and colleagues first conducted an experiment using patches of artificial plants designed to mimic a common red wildflower in the area called scarlet gilia.



Scarlet gilia, which attracts hummingbirds,

was a subject in one "noise experiment."
Credit: National Park Service

Each patch consisted of five artificial plants with three "flowers" each-microcentrifuge tubes wrapped in red electrical tape - which were filled with a fixed amount of sugar water for nectar.

To help in estimating pollen transfer within and between the patches, the researchers also dusted the flowers of one plant per patch with artificial pollen, using a different color for each patch.

Din levels at noisy patches were similar to that of a highway heard from 500 meters away, Francis said.

When the researchers compared the number of pollinator visits at noisy and quiet sites, they found that one bird species in particular - the black-chinned hummingbird - made five times more visits to noisy sites than quiet ones.

"Black-chinned hummingbirds may prefer noisy sites because another bird species that preys on their nestlings, the western scrub jay, tends to avoid those areas," Francis said.

Pollen transfer was also more common in the noisy sites.


If more hummingbird visits and greater pollen transfer translate to higher seed production for the plants, the results suggest that,

"hummingbird-pollinated plants such as scarlet gilia may indirectly benefit from noise," Francis said.

Another set of experiments revealed that noise may indirectly benefit some plants, but is bad news for others.

In a second series of experiments at the same study site, the researchers set out to discover what noise might mean for tree seeds and seedlings, using one of the dominant trees in the area - the piñon pine.


Human noise affects plants such as piñon pine,

whose seed-dispersers avoid the clamor.
Credit: Clinton Francis

Piñon pine seeds that aren’t plucked from their cones fall to the ground and are eaten by birds and other animals.

To find out if noise affected the number of piñon pine seeds that animals ate, the researchers scattered piñon pine seeds beneath 120 piñon pine trees in noisy and quiet sites, using a motion-triggered camera to figure out what animals took the seeds.

After three days, several animals were spotted feeding on the seeds, including mice, chipmunks, squirrels, birds and rabbits.

But two animals in particular differed between quiet and noisy sites-mice, which preferred noisy sites, and western scrub jays, which avoided them altogether.
Piñon pine seeds that are eaten by mice don’t survive the passage through the animal’s gut, Francis said, so the boost in mouse populations near noisy sites could be bad news for pine seedlings in those areas.

In contrast, a single western scrub jay may take hundreds to thousands of seeds, only to hide them in the soil to eat later in the year.

The seeds they fail to relocate will eventually germinate, so the preference of western scrub jays for quiet areas means that piñon pines in those areas are likely to benefit.

In keeping with their seed results, the researchers counted the number of piñon pine seedlings and found that they were four times as abundant in quiet sites compared with noisy ones.


Black-chinned hummingbirds prefer noisy nesting sites;

other birds stay away.
Credit: National Park Service


It may take decades for a piñon pine to grow from a seedling into a full-grown tree, Francis said, so the consequences of noise may last longer than scientists thought.

"Fewer seedlings in noisy areas might eventually mean fewer mature trees, but because piñon pines are so slow-growing the shift could have gone undetected for years," he said.

"Fewer piñon pine trees would mean less critical habitat for the hundreds of species that depend on them for survival."

3. Plants May Be Deaf but They Can Feel, See, Smell and Remember

Plants have more in common with humans than most people think.

They may be deaf, but they can feel, see, smell and remember, according to plant biologist Daniel Chamovitz, and unlocking the secrets of plant genetics could lead to breakthroughs in cancer research and food security

Increasingly, scientists are uncovering surprising biological connections between humans and other forms of life.

Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has revealed that plant and human biology is much closer than has ever been understood - and the study of these similarities could uncover the biological basis of diseases like cancer as well as other "animal" behaviors.


Eugenia polyantha Wight

In his new book What a Plant Knows (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and his articles in Scientific American, Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, Director of TAU's Manna Center for Plant Biosciences, says that the discovery of similarities between plants and humans is making an impact in the scientific community.

Like humans, Prof. Chamovitz says, plants also have "senses" such as sight, smell, touch, and taste.

Ultimately, he adds, if we share so much of our genetic makeup with plants, we have to reconsider what characterizes us as human.

These findings could prompt scientists to rethink what they know about biology, says Prof. Chamovitz, pointing out that plants serve as an excellent model for experiments on a cellular level.

This research is also crucial to food security, he adds, noting that knowledge about plant genetics and how plants sense and respond to their environment is central to ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing population - one of the main goals of the Manna Center.

One of the most intriguing discoveries of recent years is that a group of plant genes used to regulate responses to light is also part of the human DNA. These affect responses like the circadian rhythm, the immune system, and cell division.

A plant geneticist, Prof. Chamovitz was researching the way plants react to light when he discovered an group of genes that were responsible for a plant "knowing" whether it was in the light or in the dark.


Stapelia clavicorona.


He first believed that these genes were specific to plant life, but was surprised to later identify the same group of genes in humans and animals.

"The same group of proteins that plants use to decide if they are in the light or dark is also used by animals and humans," Prof. Chamovitz says.


"For example, these proteins control two seemingly separate processes.

  • First, they control the circadian rhythm, the biological clock that helps our bodies keep a 24 hour schedule.


  • Second, they control the cell cycle - which means we can learn more about mutations in these genes that lead to cancer."

In experiments with fruit flies who had a mutated version of one of these genes, Prof. Chamovitz and his fellow researchers observed that the flies not only developed a fly form of leukemia, but also that their circadian rhythm was disrupted, leading to a condition somewhat like permanent jet-lag.

Plants use light as a behavioral signal, letting them know when to open their leaves to gather necessary nutrients.


This response to light can be viewed as a rudimentary form of sight, contends Prof. Chamovitz, noting that the plants "see" light signals, including color, direction, and intensity, then integrate this information and decide on a response.


And plants do all this without the benefit of a nervous system.


  • How does a Venus flytrap know when to snap shut?

  • Can it feel an insect's tiny, spindly legs?

  • And how do cherry blossoms know when to bloom?

  • Can they remember the weather?

For centuries we have marveled at plant diversity and form - from Charles Darwin's early fascination with stems to Seymour Krelborn's distorted doting in Little Shop of Horrors.

But now, in What a Plant Knows, the renowned biologist Daniel Chamovitz presents an intriguing and scrupulous look at how plants themselves experience the world - from the colors they see to the schedules they keep.


Highlighting the latest research in genetics and more, he takes us into the inner lives of plants and draws parallels with the human senses to reveal that we have much more in common with sunflowers and oak trees than we may realize.


Chamovitz shows how plants know up from down, how they know when a neighbor has been infested by a group of hungry beetles, and whether they appreciate the Led Zeppelin you've been playing for them or if they're more partial to the melodic riffs of Bach.

Covering touch, sound, smell, sight, and even memory, Chamovitz encourages us to consider whether plants might even be aware.

A rare inside look at what life is really like for the grass we walk on, the flowers we sniff, and the trees we climb, What a Plant Knows offers us a greater understanding of botany and science and our place in nature.

And that's not the limit of plant "senses."


Plants also demonstrate smell - a ripe fruit releases a "ripening pheromone" in the air, which is detected by unripe fruit and signals them to follow suit - as well as the ability to feel and taste.


To some degree, plants also have different forms of "memory," allowing them to encode, store, and retrieve information.

Beyond the genes that regulate responses to light, plants and humans share a bevy of other proteins and genes - for example, the genes that cause cystic fibrosis and breast cancer.

Plants might not come down with these diseases, but the biological basis is the same, says Prof. Chamovitz. Because of this, plants are an excellent first stop when looking for a biological model, and could replace or at least enhance animal models for human disease in some types of research.

He is working alongside Prof. Yossi Shiloh, Israel Prize winner and incumbent of the David and Inez Myers Chair of Cancer Genetics at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, to understand how the genes Chamovitz discovered function in protecting human cells from radiation.

4. Plants Can Sense Danger and They Know How to Avoid Predators

First observation of predator avoidance behavior by phytoplankton was made by researchers at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.

While studying microscopic marine plants and their behavior in confrontation to the predatory zooplankton Favella sp, researchers noticed that a species of phytoplankton, a microscopic marine plant known as Heterosigma akashiwo can handle dangerous situations by avoiding predators.

"The phytoplankton can clearly sense the predator is there. They flee even from the chemical scent of the predator but are most agitated when sensing a feeding predator," said Susanne Menden-Deuer at the University of Rhode Island, co-author of the study.

"It has been well observed that phytoplankton can control their movements in the water and move toward light and nutrients," Menden-Deuer said.


"What hasn't been known is that they respond to predators by swimming away from them. We don't know of any other plants that do this."

While imaging 3-dimensional predator-prey interactions, the researchers noted that the phytoplankton Heterosigma akashiwo swam differently in the presence of predators, and groups of them shifted their distribution away from the predators.


The zooplankton predator Favella sp. (left)

and the fleeing phytoplankton Heterosigma.

(University of Rhode Island)

Moreover, researchers also found that the phytoplankton flee when in water that had previously contained the predators. They found only a minimal effect when the phytoplankton was exposed to predators that do not feed on phytoplankton.

When the scientists provided the phytoplankton with a refuge to avoid the predator - an area of low salinity water that the predators cannot tolerate - the phytoplankton moved to the refuge.

The important question these observations raise, according to Susanne Menden-Deuer, is how these interactions affect the survival of the prey species.

Measuring survival in the same experiments, the researchers found that fleeing helps the alga survive. Given a chance, the predators will eat all of the phytoplankton in one day if the algae have no safe place in which to escape, but they double every 48 hours if they have a refuge available to flee from predators.


Fleeing makes the difference between life and death for this species, said Menden-Deuer.

"One of the puzzling things about some phytoplankton blooms is that they suddenly appear," she said.

"Growth and nutrient availability don't always explain the formation of blooms. Our observation of algal fleeing from predators is another mechanism for how blooms could form. Amazingly, looking at individual microscopic behaviors can help to explain a macroscopic phenomenon."

The researchers say there is no way of knowing how common this behavior is or how many other species of phytoplankton also flee from predators, since this is the first observation of such a behavior.

"If it is common among phytoplankton, then it would be a very important process," Menden-Deuer said. "I wouldn't be surprised if other species had that capacity. It would be very beneficial to them."

The discovery (Predator-Induced Fleeing Behaviors in Phytoplankton - A New Mechanism for Harmful Algal Bloom Formation?) was published in the September 28 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.

5. Plants are Capable of Making Complex Decisions

Are plants more intelligent than we assumed? This recent study shows that plants possess surprising abilities.

Plants are also able to make complex decisions, say scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Göttingen.

Based on their investigations on Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), which is able to abort its own seeds to prevent parasite infestation, researchers deliver now the first ecological evidence of complex behavior in plants.

The Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) species has a structural memory, is able to differentiate between inner and outer conditions as well as anticipate future risks, according to the study.

When scientists examined the seeds of the Barberry more closely, they made a surprising discovery.

"The seeds of the infested fruits are not always aborted, but rather it depends on how many seeds there are in the berries", explains Dr. Katrin M. Meyer, who analyzed the data at the UFZ and currently works at the University of Goettingen.

If the infested fruit contains two seeds, then in 75 per cent of cases, the plants will abort the infested seeds, in order to save the second intact seed.

If however the infested fruit only contains one seed, then the plant will only abort the infested seed in 5 per cent of cases.

"If the Barberry aborts a fruit with only one infested seed, then the entire fruit would be lost. Instead it appears to 'speculate' that the larva could die naturally, which is a possibility.


Slight chances are better than none at all", explains Dr. Hans-Hermann Thulke from the UFZ.

Plants are very much alive

and their abilities keep surprising us.

"This anticipative behavior, whereby anticipated losses and outer conditions are weighed up, very much surprised us. The message of our study is therefore that plant intelligence is entering the realms of ecological possibility."

But how does the Barberry know what is in store for it after the tephritid fruit fly has punctured a berry?


It is still unclear as to how the plant processes information and how this complex behavior was able to develop over the course of evolution. We have previously seen that plants are much more alive than most people think.

Not only do they dislike human noise but they also posses the capacity to learn and communicate.

Perhaps even more astonishing is that plants can also make incredible music.

6. Talk to Your Plants and You Help Them Grow Better

Does talking to your plants make them grow better? Researchers say: Yes!

Having a neighborly chat improves seed germination, finds research in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology. Even when other known means of communication, such as contact, chemical and light-mediated signals, are blocked, chilli seeds grow better when grown with basil plants.

This suggests that plants are talking via nanomechanical vibrations.

Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton from the University of Western Australia attempted to grow chilli seeds (Capsicum annuum) in the presence or absence of other chilli plants, or basil (Ocimum basilicum).


In the absence of a neighboring plant, germination rates were very low, but when the plants were able to openly communicate with the seeds more seedlings grew.


However when the seeds were separated from the basil plants with black plastic, so that they could not be influenced by either light or chemical signals, they germinated as though they could still communicate with the basil.

A partial response was seen for fully grown chilli plants blocked from known communication with the seeds.

"Our results show that plants are able to positively influence growth of seeds by some as yet unknown mechanism. Bad neighbors, such as fennel, prevent chilli seed germination in the same way," Dr Gagliano explained.

"We believe that the answer may involve acoustic signals generated using nanomechanical oscillations from inside the cell which allow rapid communication between nearby plants."

7. Using Glowing Plants and Trees Can Be Used as an Energy Source

  • Will glowing trees replace street lamps in the near future?


  • Can glowing plants be used as a source of light?

These questions have occupied a group of scientists who have come up with an ingenious idea how to cut electricity costs and reduce light pollution.

Walking down the street a late evening you might actually find yourself surrounded by amazingly beautiful glowing trees and pants, instead of ordinary street lamps.

Researchers say that after proper optimization, threes and plants can be used to construct biological street lightning and serve as an efficient energy source.


Glowing plants

can soon be used as a source of light.

A group of researchers in Taiwan led by Yen Hsun Su and colleagues at Academia Sinica in Taipei and the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan have successfully synthesized gold nanoparticles and implemented them into leaves of Bacopa caroliniana plant to induce bioluminescence in them.

This process turned the leaves into bio-light-emitting diodes.

Nanoparticles are particles with a diameter of about 10 nanometers (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter).

Bacopa caroliania is a perennial aquatic or semi-aquatic herb commonly used as aquarium plant.

"The color of the leaves varies in proportion to the amount of light, turning bronze to almost red when exposed to high light levels."

"The green pigment in leaves, chlorophyll, is bioluminescent when exposed to high wavelength (400 nanometers (nm)) ultra violet excitation, but the wavelength is much shorter for the photoluminescence of gold nanoparticles, and they emit light at 400 nm.

The light is localized at a nanoscale and the nanoparticles made by the Taiwan team suppresses emission blinking, which is a problem already known in gold nanoparticles.


Using their sea-urchin-shaped nanoparticles (dubbed nano-sea-urchins or NSUs), Su was able to excite chlorophyll in the leaves to emit red light."


You may soon be surrounded by glowing trees instead of ordinary street lamps.

During the experiments scientists also discovered a relationship between the size of the gold particle and the intensity of the bioluminescence. The larger particle, the more the leaf was shining.

Yen Hsun Su and his colleagues are now trying to apply the same technique to other plant molecules.

They are also determined to improve the efficiency of the process.

Although the idea of using plants as sources of light may appear to be pure science fiction, Su and his team have successfully proved the idea is based on science and not fiction.

Su believes that bio-light-emitting diodes might eventually be used to make trees lining roads luminescent at night. Since the light causes the chloroplast to conduct photosynthesis no energy source is needed and the plant will absorb CO2 for the process, which does not normally occur at night.

Plants and trees which posses the ability to glow in the dark may provide us with new energy sources in the near future.

8. There Is a Hidden Map Inside Plants


There is no doubt plants are special in a number of ways. We have previously seen plants that can make music and sing.

Plants are very much alive. Not only do they dislike human noise but they also posses the capacity to learn and communicate.

Researchers have also discovered that plants and humans have more in common than previously thought. Plants possess a number of amazing properties and they can "behave" similar to us.


Another astonishing property is that plants possess intelligence. They can sense danger and know exactly how to avoid predators.


Even more amazing is the fact that although plants are actually deaf, they can feel, see, smell and remember. Not to mention that they are also altruistic!


Recently researcher made another surprising discovery. A group of scientists from the John Innes Centre and University of East Anglia, UK asked themselves why rose petals have rounded ends while their leaves are more pointed and they noticed something unusual. Their study revealed that the shape of petals is controlled by a hidden map located within the plant's growing buds.


Leaves and petals perform different functions related to their shape.


Leaves acquire sugars for a plant via photosynthesis, which can then be transported throughout the plant. Petals develop later in the life cycle and help attract pollinators.


In earlier work, this team had discovered that leaves in the plant Arabidopsis contain a hidden map that orients growth in a pattern that converges towards the tip of the bud, giving leaves their characteristic pointed tips.


In the new study, the researchers discover that Arabidopsis petals contain a similar, hidden map that orients growth in the flower's bud.


However, the pattern of growth is different to that in leaves - in the petal growth is oriented towards the edge giving a more rounded shape - accounting for the different shapes of leaves and petals.


The researchers discovered that molecules called PIN proteins are involved in this oriented growth, which are located towards the ends of each cell.



There is a hidden map inside flowers…


"The discovery of these hidden polarity maps was a real surprise and provides a simple explanation for how different shapes can be generated," said Professor Enrico Coen, senior author of the study.





Can we imagine a world without flowers?


Flowers are beautiful, offering us delight in their color, fragrance and form, as well as their medicinal benefits. Flowers also speak to us in the language of the plant form itself, as cultural symbols in different societies, and at the highest levels of inspiration.


In this beautiful and original book, renowned thinker and geometrist Keith Critchlow has chosen to focus on an aspect of flowers that has received perhaps the least attention. This is the flower as teacher of symmetry and geometry (the 'eternal verities', as Plato called them).


In this sense, he says, flowers can be treated as sources of remembering - a way of recalling our own wholeness, as well as awakening our inner power of recognition and consciousness.


What is evident in the geometry of the face of a flower can remind us of the geometry that underlies all existence.


Working from his own flower photographs and with every geometric pattern hand-drawn, the author reviews the role of flowers within the perspective of our relationship with the natural world.


His illuminating study is an attempt to re-engage the human spirit in its intimate relation with all nature.

The team of researchers confirmed their ideas by using computer simulations to test which maps could predict the correct petal shape.


They then confirmed experimentally that PIN proteins located to the right sites to be involved in oriented growth, and identified that another protein, called JAGGED, is involved in promoting growth towards the edge of petals and in establishing the hidden map that determines petal growth and shape.


Unlike animal cells, plant cells are unable to move and migrate to form structures of a particular shape, and so these findings help to explain how plants create differently shaped organs - by controlling rates and orientations of cell growth.


From an evolutionary perspective, this system creates the flexibility needed for plant organs to adapt to their environment and to develop different functions.

Isn't nature amazing?

9. Plants Perform Accurate and Very Sophisticated Arithmetic Calculation to Prevent Starvation at Night

Plants perform accurate arithmetic division in order to prevent starvation at night, a new study shows.


The calculation allows them to use up their starch reserves at a constant rate so that they run out almost precisely at dawn.

"This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation." said mathematical modeler Professor Martin Howard from the John Innes Centre.

Plants feed themselves during the day by using energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch. Once the sun has set, they must depend on a store of starch to prevent starvation.


The John Innes Centre scientists show that to adjust their starch consumption so precisely they must be performing a mathematical calculation - arithmetic division.

"The capacity to perform arithmetic calculation is vital for plant growth and productivity," said metabolic biologist Professor Alison Smith.


"Understanding how plants continue to grow in the dark could help unlock new ways to boost crop yield."




During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store and estimate the length of time until dawn.


Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to our own body clock.


The size of the starch store is then divided by the length of time until dawn to set the correct rate of starch consumption, so that, by dawn, around 95% of starch is used up.

"The calculations are precise so that plants prevent starvation but also make the most efficient use of their food," said Professor Smith.


"If the starch store is used too fast, plants will starve and stop growing during the night. If the store is used too slowly, some of it will be wasted."

Research (Arabidopsis Plants Perform Arithmetic Division to Prevent Starvation at Night) is published in the open access journal eLife.

10. Ancient Native Tobacco Plant May Help Grow Food in Space


QUT scientists have discovered the gene that will open the door for space-based food production.

Professor Peter Waterhouse, a plant geneticist at QUT, discovered the gene in the ancient Australian native tobacco plant Nicotiana benthamiana, known as Pitjuri to indigenous Aboriginal tribes.


QUT researchers Dr Julia Bally and Professor Peter Waterhouse

have discovered a plant with huge genome properties

that can have the potential to be the

'laboratory rat' of the molecular plant world.

This could open the door for such things

as space-based food production
Credit: Erika Fish

Professor Waterhouse made the discovery while tracing the history of the Pitjuri plant, which for decades has been used by geneticists as a model plant upon which to test viruses and vaccines.

"This plant is the 'laboratory rat' of the molecular plant world," he said, "we think of it as a magical plant with amazing properties.

"We now know that in 1939 its seeds were sent by an Australian scientist to a scientist in America and have been passed from lab to lab all over the world.

"By sequencing its genome and looking through historical records we have been able to determine that the original plant came from the Granites area near the Western Australia and Northern Territory border, close to where Wolf Creek was filmed.

"We know, through using a molecular clock and fossil records, that this particular plant has survived in its current form in the wild for around 750,000 years."


Pitjuri plant has survived in its current form in the wild

for around 750,000 years, says Professor Peter Waterhouse.

Photo: Reuters

Lead researcher Dr Julia Bally said determining the exact species had led researchers on a quest to find out how the plant managed to survive in the wild for such a long period of time.

"What we found may have a big impact on future plant biotechnology research," Dr Bally said.

"We have discovered that it is the plant equivalent of the nude mouse used in medical research.

"The plant has lost its "immune system" and has done that to focus its energies on being able to germinate and grow quickly, rapidly flower, and set seed after even a small amount of rainfall.

"Its focus is on creating small flowers but large seeds and on getting these seeds back into the soil in time for the next rain.

"The plant has worked out how to fight drought - its number one predator - in order to survive through generations."

Professor Waterhouse, a molecular geneticist with QUT's Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, said scientists could use this discovery to investigate other niche or sterile growing environments where plants were protected from disease - and space was an intriguing option.

"So the recent film The Martian, which involved an astronaut stranded on Mars growing potatoes while living in an artificial habitat, had a bit more science fact than fiction than people might think," he said.

Professor Waterhouse said the team's findings also have implications for future genetic research back here on Earth.

"Scientists can now know how to turn other species into "nude mice" for research purposes. So just as nude mice can be really good models for cancer research, "nude" versions of crop plants could also speed up agricultural research," he said.

Professor Waterhouse said the fact that the N. benthamiana variety from central Australia had doubled its seed size also opened the door for investigations into how N. benthamiana could be used commercially as a biofactory, as seeds were an excellent place in which to make antibodies for pharmaceutical use.