By Matt Pizutti — 7/30/2011
I knew that sometimes multiple trees of the same species fuse their roots to share water and nutrients. Elm trees do this in urban settings; it’s one of the reason why a diseased elm needs to be “trenched” to sever its roots from surrounding elms, to keep the disease from circulating into other trees and killing a whole yard or park full of mature trees. Roses also graft together below ground and spread nutrients, as well as diseases, through a network.
In nature, Redwood trees are known to form massive conglomerated root systems combining hundrets of individuals – and whole forests – into nutrient-sharing systems. One demonstration of how thorough this network is, is “albino” trees; Redwoods are the only tree species in which individuals that are genetically mutated so can’t photosynthesize (and appear white) actually survive and grow in the nature because other trees feed them sugar through root connections.
(More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albino_red
(In other circumstances, there are parisitic plants that don’t photosynthesize, but they cannot parasatize thier own species because none of the others photosynthesize either. In this case, it’s less like parasitism and more like welfare.)
But it goes beyond that. I JUST READ: in most forests, ALL trees connect to large underground mycelial (fungus) networks to pass minerals, water and sugars… through the networks… EVEN TO “COMPETING” TREE SPECIES!