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Oecologia. 2013 Jul;172(3):869-75. doi: 10.1007/s00442-013-2610-2. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

Interplant volatile signaling in willows: revisiting the original talking trees.

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Department of Entomology, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The importance of interplant volatile signaling in plant-herbivore interactions has been a contentious issue for the past 30 years. We revisit willows as the system in which evidence for interplant signaling was originally found, but then questioned. We established three well-replicated experiments with two willow species (Salix exigua and Salix lemmonii) to address whether the receipt of an interplant signal from a neighboring willow reduces herbivore damage. Additionally we tested whether this signal is volatile in nature, and whether plants signal better to themselves than they do to other individuals. In all three experiments, we found evidence that cues from a damaged neighbor reduce subsequent herbivory experienced by willows. In one experiment, we showed that bagging of clipped tissue, which prevents the exchange of volatile signals, removed the effect of neighbor wounding. This was consistent with results from the other two experiments, in which clipping potted neighbors connected only through airborne volatile cues reduced damage of receivers. In one year, we found evidence that the perception of volatile signals from genetically identical clones was more effective at reducing foliar damage to a neighbor than signals from a genetically different individual. However, this trend was not significant in the following year. In three well-replicated experiments, we found strong evidence for the importance of interplant volatile cues in mediating herbivore interactions with willows.

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