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Fascinating TED talks on plants

If you've not heard of the TED talks before then why not start here! TED is a fantastic and free forum for famous and non-famous speakers to wax lyrical about topics they are passionate about and/or their field of expertise. This grouping of 9 talks is all about plants:

1. The roots of plant intelligence

2. The mysterious lives of giant trees

3. The world's oldest living things

4. The beautiful tricks of flowers

5. How trees talk to each other

6. The magic of the Amazon: A river that flows invisibly all around us

7. How we can make crops survive without water

8. A plant's-eye view

9. Humble plants that hide surprising secrets

And they all directly or indirectly share a common theme; the way plants survive by using a cocktail of chemicals. These chemicals fall into 3 categories; the alkaloids, terpenes and the phenolics, and they enhance the survivability of plants by deterring invaders (e.g. other plants by poisoning the soil around themselves), attracting symbiotic insects (e.g. proving attracting scents and colours) and by healing the plant when it comes under attack (e.g. if a pathogen invaded!). The interesting thing is that if you consume plants/ plant-based products then you too are consuming these chemicals. One of the most famous alkaloids is caffeine and it does indeed poison the soil around the host plant to prevent other greedy plants stealing its resources. But, it also attached to the adenosine receptors in the human central nervous system and makes us feel more alert. We also benefit from the terpenes which attract insects with their scent when we activate the leaves of, say, the rosemary plant and research here at Northumbria University has found that these aromas may aid our memory Finally, phenolics like resveratrol exist in plants like grapevines and protect the grapes when there is too much UV light, too much salt in the soil and when a pathogen attacks the vine, for example. And, our own lab investigates whether resveratrol could provide beneficial effects in humans too; see our research articles for what we've found so far.

So, if you want to know more on how these chemical work in the plant, watch these talks:

Professor David Kennedy has also written a book on how these chemicals have evolved to interact with the central nervous system and influence human psychophysiology:

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