r/NatureIsFuckingLit Dec 08 '22 Helpful 3 Wholesome 4 Take My Power 1 Silver 4

🔥 If Holly (Ilex aquifolium) finds its leaves are being nibbled by deer, it switches genes on to make them spiky when they regrow. So on taller Holly trees, the upper leaves (which are out of reach) have smooth edges, while the lower leaves are prickly

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61.2k Upvotes

2.6k

u/Snedaskinawood Dec 08 '22

My holly is completely fenced in and no deer around and yet still prickly…

2.2k

u/Curazan Dec 08 '22

There are hundreds of species of Holly. Some are all prick.

1.2k

u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

498

u/RandomRedditReader Dec 08 '22

I have a cousin from Ohio named Holly. Checks out.

246

u/EauDeUpdog Dec 08 '22

Did she turn into a prick after you nibbled on her delicate leaves?

214

u/CapnPants666 Dec 08 '22

That’s a bit Alabama-ish.

102

u/LukesRightHandMan Dec 08 '22

Nah, still Ohio through and through.

64

u/CapnPants666 Dec 08 '22

I mean it is Ohio after all. They are like the second Florida.

42

u/Danedelies Dec 08 '22

Ohio was the first Florida

5

u/Vast-Sir-1949 Dec 09 '22

Florida is the only Florida.

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

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u/Staveoffsuicide Dec 08 '22

I mean chances are there's 1. It likely is blowing your mind more but still relevant and interesting

18

u/Zharick_ Dec 08 '22

Ohio transplants are what make Florida Florida. I tend to find most Ohio transplants are indeed pricks.

2

u/osamabinluvin Dec 09 '22

Florida of farms

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u/DASreddituser Dec 08 '22

Kentucky does touch ohio

5

u/Everettrivers Dec 09 '22

And Jim Jordan just looked the other way.

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u/RalfStein7 Dec 09 '22

Did that ask permission first?? /s

4

u/Chequedout Dec 09 '22

In Kentucky, two bourbons equal one consent. It's how math is taught.

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u/physicomorphic Dec 08 '22

This metaphor confuses and frightens me

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u/Kmspatara15 Dec 08 '22

I'm from Ohio but I'm not holly nor jolly

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u/notoriousbsr Dec 09 '22

Ohio native, I'm belly laughing at this

2

u/bridge_view Dec 10 '22

I am not from Ohio, but I am belly laughing too!

19

u/cincystudent Dec 08 '22

Damn bro fuck you too. Jk I hate it here send help

11

u/Survived_Coronavirus Dec 08 '22

You know, punching down is generally frowned upon.

11

u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

12

u/CPThatemylife Dec 08 '22

I can’t name one good thing about Ohio.

The birth of human flight? the Air and space museum? one of the nicer Air Force bases? oh God it's all planes

8

u/Pyorrhea Dec 09 '22

Planes, trains, automobiles, and astronauts. All the ways to get away.

3

u/Danedelies Dec 08 '22

Thinking the whole state of Ohio is beneath you is next level sigma grindset

11

u/Spec187 Dec 08 '22

8

u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

2

u/Theolodger Dec 09 '22

If you want to join the people’s front of whoeverweare, you have to really hate Ohio

8

u/NotJimIrsay Dec 08 '22

I heard that Ohio is an old Native American word. It means “land of poor white people”.

2

u/rbergs215 Dec 09 '22

Quick someone get an ambulance, Ohio's been shot!

2

u/XxRoyalxTigerxX Dec 08 '22

Looks like Michigan isn't the only one with a bone to pick with Ohio

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u/Sumdumguy2point0 Dec 08 '22

How do they know it’s being eaten by a deer?

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u/Curazan Dec 08 '22 edited Dec 08 '22

Based on what I know about similar species, herbivory likely releases a chemical in the leaves, and a high concentration of that chemical detected by the surrounding foliage triggers the change. One leaf being damaged may not trigger it, but ten or one hundred might. I imagine an aggressive pruning would produce a similar reaction.

It’s been observed in many species, but media headlines have a habit of misrepresenting it as “plants talk to each other!” which is a gross anthropomorphization. It’s “talking” in the same sense that me smelling an orange you just peeled is you “telling” me you peeled an orange.

4

u/Lord_Abort Dec 09 '22

Sounds like "switches genes" is a bit of a misnomer.

10

u/Curazan Dec 09 '22 edited Dec 09 '22

Yes and no. It’s epigenetic. The genes aren’t changing—just how they’re read.

Within heterophyllous branchlets, pairs of contiguous prickly and nonprickly leaves differed in genome-wide DNA methylation. The mean per-marker probability of methylation declined significantly from nonprickly to prickly leaves. Methylation differences between leaf types did not occur randomly across the genome, but affected predominantly certain specific markers. The results of this study, although correlative in nature, support the emerging three-way link between herbivory, phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic changes in plants, and also contribute to the crystallization of the consensus that epigenetic variation can complement genetic variation as a source of phenotypic variation in natural plant populations.

2

u/OfficialTuxedoMocha Dec 09 '22

Could you like me to the article or paper this came from? I'm interested to read more.

8

u/MeSpikey Dec 08 '22

No, no, let them plants talk and have feelings! How else can omnivores guilttrip vegans if not for the feelings of the plants!?

Sorry, I feel prickly today.

9

u/Halloerik Dec 08 '22

Username checks out

2

u/WyrdThoughts Dec 09 '22

Were deer nibbling you?

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u/TheDogerus Dec 08 '22

Most likely not by a deer specifcally, but it's trivial to tell if you're being eaten. If the immune system detects large numbers of damaged cells, it could trigger a reduction in the methylation of whatever genes code for these defensive traits

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u/Tripwiring Dec 08 '22

Bigfoot is a carnivore so it's either deer or bigfoot

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u/Blk-cherry3 Dec 09 '22

I hate cleaning up the deal leaves. they get you all the time.

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u/SecretAgent57 Dec 09 '22

We have Ilex vomitoria here in Florida.

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u/Goofie_Goobur Dec 08 '22 edited Dec 08 '22

Has it been trimmed or cut before?

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22 edited Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

27

u/ares395 Dec 08 '22

You didn't fix anything. You just changed a question into a sentence which if anything fucked the original comment

-41

u/FlyingDragoon Dec 08 '22

Remember folks, this is why school is important. Without it you never fully grasp critical thinking and you end up making a comment like Ares here.

20

u/Markmyfuckimgworms Dec 08 '22

I mean they're not wrong tho, it's a pretty confusing way of saying "that's probably the right answer"

2

u/SeudonymousKhan Dec 09 '22

Critical thinking is antithetical to the Prussian model of education we have.

20

u/Goofie_Goobur Dec 08 '22

Fixed what? It was a question you queef smoker

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u/CorruptedFlame Dec 08 '22

Don't kink shame

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u/UndendingGloom Dec 08 '22

From what I remember it is to do with the height of the leaves, not whether they have been nibbled or not. If your holly bush is tall enough, you should be able to see some spike-less leaves at the top?

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u/shalafi71 Dec 08 '22

All the holly trees at my camp are like that, spiky low, smooth high. Only saw a deer once, none on the trail cam after 2 years.

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u/ultranoodles Dec 08 '22

It's not the height, it's damage. You can see the difference when you shear them

10

u/Eusocial_Snowman Dec 09 '22

You're both right depending on which particular holly tree you're describing. There are different ones that are all differenty.

4

u/i-Ake Dec 09 '22 edited Dec 09 '22

My holly is the tallest, straightest holly I have ever seen. She is taller than my house. And every year from late Nov to mid- Dec, American Robins go apeshit all over the berries. I'd think the tree would want that, though... Anyway, my fiance and I call it "the feasting" I love it. He humors me.

Our neighbors share our back lot with us, unfenced, and they have a little baby holly that I am sure is ours' daughter.

Girl holly have berries and boys don't, just as an FYI to all. I thought that was cool.

EDIT: This is American Holly, as I know there are other kinds and cannot be sure of any of their uhh... traits. But I went wild researching ours, because she is a stalwart giant, safe haven for all kinds of creatures and I love her.

Our holly

27

u/NoOneKnowsImACat2 Dec 08 '22

Well then stop eating them

6

u/greatthebob38 Dec 08 '22

I'm prwtty sure someone in your family is nibbling on them then.

6

u/Atlas226926 Dec 08 '22

Shearing and trimming also cause the genes to activate so if you upkeep your holly in that sense it will be prickly

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u/Desert-Mouse Dec 08 '22

I bet the plant can't tell your trimming from a deer nibbling.

3

u/KombatdWombat Dec 08 '22

The post is slightly inaccurate, Holly only grows the spiked leaves below approximately 10ft any leaves above that (at least in UK species) are always smooth this is an evolutionary trate due to the reach of species that would eat Holly in this ecosystem.

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

Are you seriously questioning that random photo by some random dude? That's scientific proof!

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u/BWWFC Dec 08 '22

browsing reddit IS doing your own research

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u/Eusocial_Snowman Dec 09 '22

I really hope these obligatory piggyback dunks fall out of trend soon. It's like you guys just scroll down every thread looking for the first contrary statement, no matter what it is, so you can practice being smug. Like a cartoon bully's sidekick waiting to obnoxiously agree with whatever they say.

2

u/[deleted] Dec 09 '22

Word no doubt.

2

u/Akitz Dec 09 '22

It's literally the same energy as "this"

3

u/RainNoctem Dec 08 '22

Stop eating your plants bro.

-26

u/DeadliestSin Dec 08 '22

It's almost as if the title was completely made up

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u/Curazan Dec 08 '22

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u/noodlelaughter Dec 08 '22

The evolution of the species is vastly different than “hrrr durrr if leaf gets nibbled plant changes”

3

u/purple_potatoes Dec 08 '22

This paper isn't (directly) about evolution, it's about changes in individual plants' leaves through epigenetic changes. From the abstract the paper really is basically “hrrr durrr if leaf gets nibbled plant changes”.

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u/Curazan Dec 08 '22

What the fuck are even suggesting? Plant communication via VOCs is well-studied as this point.

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u/ThallidReject Dec 08 '22

The title is completely accurate, theres just a fuckload of species in that genus, and they look very very similar at a laymans passing glance.

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u/YouJustDid Dec 08 '22

ikr? phenotypic plasticity is all like “am I a joke to you?”

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u/KateBushFuckingSucks Dec 08 '22 Silver

"I don't remember Holly being such a prick last year..." one deer to another sometime, probably

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u/Advanced_Ad7695 Dec 08 '22

Absolutely impeccable humour

9

u/Badpennylane Dec 08 '22

Ay oh

4

u/Independentange Dec 08 '22

Nature is so damn clever.

2

u/r3mixi Dec 08 '22

I like mine a bit spicy 🌶

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u/HiTekLoLyfe Dec 08 '22

That’s so cool I always thought they were all just spiky.

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u/RanchPoptarts Dec 08 '22

Either this is false or only happens for a specific species, had one in my backyard and every single leave was angry

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u/sadrice Dec 08 '22

It is extremely variable between individuals, and there are over 570 species, it is a huge and confusing genus. Okinawan Holly, aptly named Ilex dimorphophylla, has a similar pattern.

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u/GreatCornolio Dec 08 '22

Holy hell lol

Holly trees could be a coffee table book

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u/sadrice Dec 08 '22

Not just “could be”.

At a mere 619 pages that book is probably rather incomplete, I think that could be stretched to three volumes that size if you really want to say everything there is to say about Hollies.

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[deleted]

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u/sadrice Dec 08 '22

Monographs wouldn’t be a typical purchase need, at least outside of grad school, but yeah I had that same thought. I just googled “ilex monograph”, and was thinking I wouldn’t mind owning that, before I noticed the price. I should look around and find a used copy. I really like monographs, but they are almost never cheap.

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u/SmellsWeirdRightNow Dec 08 '22

The link you posted has a used copy for $28.

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u/danskal Dec 08 '22

I know this is super-dumb, but why do you say 619 when the last page is numbered 573? Are there 46 empty pages?

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u/sadrice Dec 08 '22

I looked at the Amazon description and it says 619 pages, and I didn’t check anything else. Some books don’t apply proper page numbers to the foreword and preface, maybe that’s the issue.

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u/MayonaiseBaron Dec 08 '22

Wait until you hear about Astragalus

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u/PiedPeterPiper Dec 08 '22

Maybe from trimming?

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u/RanchPoptarts Dec 08 '22

Never trimmed it, was growing practically wild in the far back corner of the backward. Created a circle of dead grass cause it didn't let enough light through under and around it

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u/reallybiglizard Dec 08 '22

I got a holly from Home Depot that was prickly when I bought it and has continued to put out prickly leaves ever since. It’s totally possible that nurseries intentionally propagate or prune for the spiky shape, since that is what people associate with holly and therefor will be more likely to buy when they see it in the store.

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u/TheAJGman Dec 08 '22

Considering nearly every landscaping plant is a grafted clone, I wouldn't be surprised if the cultivar has this trait. As others are saying, there are also a bunch of different species.

To my knowledge, only Ilex Opaca is native to North America. It's more tree like and harder to find cultivars for, but there are a handful of bushy varieties. IMO it's better to plant the native species.

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u/BuddhaAndG Dec 08 '22

Ilex Vomtioria ( yaupon) is native to SE US and you can make a coffee ish substitute with its leaves.

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u/touchmyfuckingcoffee Dec 09 '22

We have many native North AmericanIlex species, my favorite being either the Possum haw (*Ilex deciducua) or the Savannah holly tree.

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u/Flumptastic Dec 08 '22

That is a good guess, but it's not the case. I have seen countless tiny holly seedlings during my work as a gardener, whose first leaves are always spiky.

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u/HiTekLoLyfe Dec 08 '22

Not a scientific article but links one in the article that suggests that this theory could be the case. Also says that this effect can happen on the same tree https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/121220-holly-leaves-prickly-plants-science.

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u/Matt6453 Dec 08 '22

I have that problem now, angry leaves drop all year and stick to the ground so nothing will grow.

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u/MountainsAlwaysCall Dec 08 '22

Was backward on purpose?

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u/everythingwas24 Dec 08 '22

“This jerk thinks he can trim me? I’ll show him!” -the holly tree as he angrily grows spiky leaves

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u/LBobRife Dec 08 '22

My tree follows exactly what the OP describes.

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u/raltoid Dec 08 '22

It is true that European Holly(Ilex aquifolium, same as OP) can have spiky and non-spiky leaves on the same tree. But the reasoning for why was inferred and not proved in this study.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/121220-holly-leaves-prickly-plants-science

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/boj.12007

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u/never_insightful Dec 08 '22

It's very common. Pretty much every holly tree I see when I'm out and about that's tall enough does this

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u/Egg_Person_ Dec 08 '22

Leaf* leaves is plural.

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u/RanchPoptarts Dec 08 '22

Leaf me alone

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u/CommissionNumerous72 Dec 08 '22

I had this in my yard growing up too and it wasn’t large, and all the leaves were spikey.

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u/Erinalope Dec 08 '22

I think there are similar plants that are just spiky all the time. I remember having a bush living in the US south that was like the leaf on the right all over. Though I guess it could be holly constantly reacting to being trimmed back.

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/snafubar_buffet Dec 08 '22

Is this why holly is so damn prickly when I trim it!? 🤯

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u/basshead17 Dec 08 '22

Ya. It's fighting back

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u/sacrosaurio Dec 08 '22

That's sad somehow

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u/SigO12 Dec 08 '22

“How do I keep losing?!? This worked for billions of years… WTF?!?”

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u/Quantentheorie Dec 08 '22

eh, humans suck at threat perception - trees are even worse at it (and yes, that includes Ents). A haircut is good for you but if you don't know whats going on, it might feel invasive.

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u/No_Guarantee7821 Dec 08 '22

How is it sad. Do you mean in a “all living things are the same” reincarnation sort of thing? Where the plant has feelings too. Or

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u/Dojiake Dec 08 '22

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u/Bishime Dec 08 '22

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u/ap1095 Dec 08 '22

https://academic.oup.com/botlinnean/article/171/3/441/2416188 full version of that article that shouldn't require you to log in

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u/Dojiake Dec 08 '22

Thank you!

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u/whaldener Dec 08 '22

Here's the most relevant part of the article for this discussion:

A considerable number of studies support the interpretation that increased plant spinescence, in the form of denser, longer or tougher prickles and spines in stems or leaves, represents a plastic response of plants to herbivory by large browsers, typically mammals (e.g. Bazely, Myers & da Silva, 1991; Milewski et al., 1991; Obeso, 1997; Gómez & Zamora, 2002; Young, Stanton & Christian, 2003). In the case of heterophyllous plants, where individuals produce mixtures of spiny and nonspiny leaves, a handful of observational, experimental and phylogenetic investigations support both the role of vertebrate browsing as an inducer of increased spinescence and the adaptive value to plants of this plastic response to browsing damage (Supnick, 1983; Givnish et al., 1994; Obeso, 1997; Eskildsen, Olesen & Jones, 2004). The results of the present investigation, although admittedly of a correlative nature, also support the role of browsing as an inducer of the plastic production of prickly leaves in heterophyllous I. aquifolium, as shown experimentally by Obeso (1997) for a northern Spanish population of the same species.

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u/PensiveObservor Dec 08 '22

🏆🏆🏆

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u/whaldener Dec 08 '22

Here's a better paper about this subject:

Obeso 1997

Evidence is presented which suggests that the spinescence of leaves of European holly, Ilex aquifolium, deters feeding by ungulates and is induced by browsing. Spinescence decreased as leaf size increased; hence, spinescence may be achieved by reducing adult leaf size. Holly shrubs with very spiny leaves were browsed less often than less spiny shrubs. In the absence of browsing ungulates during a one year period, the spinescence of leaves of holly shrubs significantly decreased. Browsed shrubs exhibited reduced annual shoot growth, increased branching, and produced smaller leaves with high spinescence. The regrowth on browsed branches of holly trees was characterized by increased leaf spinescence relative to unbrowsed branches. Hence, the induced response was localized, thereby reducing the ability of browsing ungulates to exert selective pressures on holly trees.

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u/DeadliestSin Dec 08 '22

They summarized that there was a correlation NOT causation between the leaf type and herbivores

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u/BenChua467 Dec 08 '22

thank you for making this clear. even in the paper its only mentioned in a single, rather unclear line.

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u/thugzbunnie Dec 08 '22

Heteroblastic trees are cool af. If you want to see a crazy change in form look up the leaves juveniles and adults for pseudopanax ferox. They are endemic to NZ and are thought to change because of moa (big extinct bird) . Once they are over 3m tall the change from leaves as tough wooden spikes to normal leaves.

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u/WibblyWobley Dec 08 '22

And crassifolius! They both do it ferox just has the more red blades so looks cooler.

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u/thugzbunnie Dec 08 '22

Such a cool tree. There is a juvenile crasifolius growing in the little township down the road from me. People think it looks unwell because of its stage in growth but once it gets about a meter taller it will be an amazing tree

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u/WibblyWobley Dec 08 '22

When I was a kid we used to collect the shedded blades for pretend sword fighting as you do. It's one of my favourite plants even if it looks a little sad in its early years.

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u/ContactResident9079 Dec 08 '22

Not so sure about that. The Chinese hybrids just revert back to the parent plant over time.

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u/pzk550 Dec 08 '22

This is the correct answer and the parent plant is Ilex rotunda.

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u/wb420420 Dec 08 '22

Carissa Hollie’s always revert back to rotunda in my zone

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u/wb420420 Dec 08 '22

It took me way to long to find the correct answer. And this is it

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u/Then-Needleworker425 Dec 08 '22

Nature is so damn clever.

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u/CrackGear Dec 08 '22

That's it, I'm done

- Holly

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u/xSTSxZerglingOne Dec 08 '22

Grass does something similar when cut. A lawnmower blade just gives 0 actual fucks about it.

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u/No_more_hiding Dec 08 '22

Same thing happened to me.

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u/wbgsccgc Dec 08 '22

You became more prickly because a deer nibbled on you?

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u/Chaos-Pand4 Dec 08 '22

No, they’re more prickly on the bottom.

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u/Kopites_Roar Dec 08 '22

Huh? You've got a prickly bottom?

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u/dirtybird971 Dec 08 '22

Sounds like a job for baby powder!

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u/Kopites_Roar Dec 08 '22

Wut? You make powder from babies? What utter hellscape is this?

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u/Kawkawww0609 Dec 08 '22

Not to be pedantic but I'm actually curious since this is p fuckin cool:

It changes genes or gene expression?

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u/trashpandahorde Dec 08 '22

In ecology this is a negative feedback response! The scientific term for a plant adapting itself based on the situation is called phenotypic plasticity!

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u/fghhihgfdf Dec 08 '22

I feel the same way as this tree because if you touch me on my lower branches I get a bit prickly

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u/Blue_Swirling_Bunny Dec 08 '22

Some people are like that but the prickliness is on the inside.

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u/Rhinosauron Dec 08 '22

Just yesterday, I made a holly wreath from trimmings and I was all pissy that the leaves were round instead of looking like "traditional holly". Now I know why! I love learning new things! Thank you!

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u/HitDog420 Dec 09 '22

Plants are conscious in my opinion and over the years of weeding out weeds and dealing with plants, the weeds start to only grow where I could not see, like under or behind other plants and the ones that did sprout in view made one skinny thread all the way to hide behind something and grow big.

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u/4E4ME Dec 09 '22

Do they also tell the other plants nearby, via their root system, that they are being nibbled, so that the othe plants can use the spiky-leaf defense?

I find the root (telephone party line) communication system fascinating.

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u/Competitive-Brick-42 Dec 09 '22

I feel like I’ve cut down a holly tree that was mean on top

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u/aod42091 Dec 09 '22

some holly are just in defaulted to attack mode

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u/Slyguyfawkes Dec 09 '22

I would say also belongs on r/interestingasfuck

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u/hotclubdenowhere1017 Dec 09 '22

Ha! I had a dream where I was explaining this fact to someone last night… thanks Reddit

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u/mvnnyvevwofrb Dec 08 '22

If only human beings could do that to make themselves less vulnerable.

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u/poepjepapje Dec 08 '22

We can get goosebumps, but yeah that's not as impressive.

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u/Boojibs Dec 08 '22

Hey!

I learned something!

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u/Advanced_Ad7695 Dec 08 '22

Interesting, In England I've never seen a holly bush without spiky leaves yet we lack deer In the areas I have found them in, this can't be the true explanation for the phenomena unless some other native animal is fond of their leaves

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u/ThallidReject Dec 08 '22

This is species specific, and human pruning triggers the same effect.

So either those bushes are being pruned, or they arent a holly species capable of this.

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u/AwkwardChuckle Dec 09 '22

Ilex aquilfolium is extremely common. It will produce prickles with or without deer, and this post was specifically about ilex aquifolium. It’s actually to do with shoot age.

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u/DeadliestSin Dec 08 '22

Sounds like an imagined reason. Maybe it naturally grows spiked leaves close to the ground?

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u/ThallidReject Dec 08 '22

Nope, completely accurate. The effect is pretty deeply studied.

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u/Above666Below Dec 08 '22

That is dope!

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u/Western-Image7125 Dec 08 '22

Truly, nature is fucking lit

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u/queenhaggard Dec 08 '22

Wow, I never knew this! Thanks!

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u/EstablishmentThick21 Dec 08 '22

Guess you could say it has a special role with holly-wood.

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u/dumbredditor8358 Dec 08 '22

so thats why they look like that.

also i didnt know Holly was their name

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u/anxiouslymute Dec 08 '22

This applies to it being walked on as well. We have two buses where we walk between 7 and 13 dogs like 6 times a day and the bottom leaves are spiky where the dogs sniff, brush up against, and pee on

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u/nancykind Dec 08 '22

deer ravage my spiky holly every winter. takes months to recover

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u/TheSleepyBarnOwl Dec 08 '22

I still find it funny how people mistake Holliday Trees for mistel toes

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u/Kamikazekagesama Dec 08 '22

On my holly trees the tops are spikey and bottoms more rounded because squirrels eat the new growth at the top but not from the bottom

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u/thatAnthrax Dec 08 '22

nature's if-else statement

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u/worrub918 Dec 08 '22

I have two hollies that are both approx 12 ft tall and both are nothing but spikey leaves. Never onces been trimmed or anything.

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u/im_lexirayne Dec 08 '22

Very interesting

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u/johnnydorko Dec 08 '22

Man I thought my bushes were being invaded by a suspiciously similar yet far more painful version of themselves lol

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u/Commercial_Accident Dec 08 '22

more like thered be patches of spikey leaves when the deers are eating a lot during that time

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u/[deleted] Dec 08 '22

Fascinating

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u/meow421meow Dec 08 '22

Deer nibble holly