Root radar: UGA researchers discover how parasitic plants know when to attack

An international team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Georgia has discovered how parasitic plants, which steal their nutrients from another living plant, evolved the ability to detect and attack their hosts.

“In the simplest terms, these are plants that eat other plants,” said David Nelson, co-author of the paper and assistant professor of genetics in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The seeds of some parasitic plants, like witchweed for example, can lie dormant in soil for more than a decade, waiting to grow until they detect the presence of a host. We wanted to understand how the parasites know other plants are nearby so we could develop new ways of combating them.”

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