As a financial consultant in Chicago, my brother is often required by his job to travel to meet with current and potential clients. About a month ago, he was asked by his boss whether or not he would be interested in helping the San Francisco branch of his firm with an upcoming deadline that they had. Naturally, he jumped at the opportunity of being able to live in the Bay Area for a short while, especially considering the prospect of escaping the frigid Chicago winter in exchange for the gorgeous climate Northern California offers this time of the year.
Soon after he got on board, however, he quickly realized that not only would he have to work on the weekends, but he would also have to stay in the office until about two o’clock in the morning every day. Long gone were the dreams of relaxing in the lush Presidio District or indulging in the delights America’s largest and most vibrant China Town has to offer; and replacing these fantasies was the stressful environment work and school often bring to one’s life. Some people thrive off of this kind of stress while others, like my brother and me, find it absolutely abhorrent.
In the work place and at school, taking on this sort of stress often comes with its benefits (be it a larger salary, making oneself more marketable to graduate schools, etc.) Interestingly, a recent study conducted by Dr. Yuri Springer has discovered that such stress related benefits also exist in the Plant community.
In his study, Springer found that a certain species of wild flax plants that grow in innutritious serpentine soils are less likely to acquire infections from fungal pathogens. Serpentine soils are characterized by their rocky texture, high level of toxins, and low concentrations of essential nutrients; all of which contribute to a stressful growth environment for a plant.
What the results of Dr. Springer’s study suggest is that stressful environments may be alluring to plants because of their ability to reduce the chances of infection. Relatively little information continues to be known on the exact nature of this relationship; however, this is the first study to explain this unique evolutionary aspect of plants that grow in stressful environments.
Whether rewarded monetarily or given increased immunity, it seems that all living things on earth eventually demand some sort of retribution for leading a stressful life. When we return from Thanksgiving Break in about two weeks or so and our stress levels fly off of the charts, we can only hope that we too, like the wild flax plants of Dr. Springer’s study, will eventually be rewarded for our efforts.
Discussion Question: Evolutionarily speaking, how do you think this complex relationship between stressful environments and plants began?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091119101209.htm
Scientific Article: http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/abstract/96/11/2010
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