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Rip Van Winkle Plants Can Conceal For Up to 20 Years Underground

Rip Van Winkle spent 20 years napping in a forest and the cause of this long slumber was ghost liquor. He slept through the American Revolutionary War and after two centuries, scientists are trying to find something similar in plants. And shockingly, there are diverse mix of plants around the world that live dormant underground for upto two decades. A report in the journal Ecology letters stated that these plants survive tough times by just napping through them until things seem to get better.

Around 114 species from 24 plant families can use this trick. They abandon the process of photosynthesis to concentrate on the survival in the soil. It seems paradoxical that plants would let go of photosynthesis and yet, the study shows a lot of plants that can do it, says co-author Michael Hutchings, an ecology professor at University of Sussex.

These species have found ways to endure dormancy by evolving mechanisms that lets them get essential nutrients through soil based fungal associates. This helps them thrive during dormant periods. The strategy is popular in a lot of orchid species along with other types of plants. It occurs in a part of population or species during a given year so that the broader population keeps growing while the survivors wait underground for a while.

There is still research that needs to understand why the plants go in the dormant mode.

By: Neha Maheshwari