Self-protecting trees – how they protect themselves from predators

Did you know that there are some trees out there that actually protect themselves from predators? These are called self-protecting trees and this article will shine a spotlight on what they are and how they protect themselves. 

Trees Have Many Potential Predators

Trees often have several different pests and pathogens that are trying to destroy them which means that they have to be constantly alert to ward these threats off. Beasts, bugs, and much more can really affect a tree.

Some trees will be preyed upon more by bugs whilst others, such as the acacia tree, often have to contend with giraffes who love to eat their leaves. 

How Do They Know They Are Being Preyed Upon?

Much like humans and animals, trees can also sense when someone or something is touching them. 

Whether it’s a bug nibbling at their leaves or a larger animal trying to take a twig or a branch, trees are aware of what is going on.

Whilst they do not have a central nervous system and may not feel pain like humans and animals do, they can sense things and will react in such a way to protect themselves.

Many people do not realise how social trees actually are and that they can actually ‘warn’ each other about different threats and dangers. 

Scientific studies have found that trees that have been attacked actually send warnings to neighbouring trees

They can also send these warning signals to other trees further away too, thanks to certain scents – with studies showing forests that have been attacked on one side increase defence on the other side!

It’s fascinating that the roots and fungal networks of trees can sense the electromagnetic fields of other trees, no matter how subtle they are, and put their defence mechanisms into place. 

Studies actually found that some will even share nutrients with trees nearby to help them fight the incoming attack. 

Which Trees Protect Themselves?

Poisonous berry

There are quite a few species of trees that protect themselves when they feel that they are being threatened. 

Some physically change their leaves – the European Holly makes its lower leaves spiky whilst the top leaves stay the same. 

Others may make their needles more poisonous such as the English Yew.

Acacia trees send out ethylene gas as a distress signal if giraffes start to eat their leaves – which lets neighbouring acacias know of the threat and they can make their leaves contain something which makes larger predators sick. 

Some other acacias even house and feed ants which then viciously defend the trees against everything else it deems a threat!

However, it’s not just the threat of predators that lead trees to protect themselves. Studies have found that some trees produce wound hormones to help themselves heal or replace torn off buds or limbs. Such an incident may occur during a storm or a natural event.

There is plenty that we can do to protect trees ourselves but it’s great to know that many can protect themselves in a variety of ways, whether that be from animals, insects, or other threats.

Image: Angel DiBilio /, Iva Vagnerova /



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