, Volume 172, Issue 3, pp 869–875 | Cite as

Interplant volatile signaling in willows: revisiting the original talking trees

  • Ian S. PearseEmail author
  • Kathy Hughes
  • Kaori Shiojiri
  • Satomi Ishizaki
  • Richard Karban
Plant-animal interactions - Original research


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.


Interplant signal Plant communication Herbivory Eavesdropping Volatile organic compounds 



Our experiments were conducted in the Putah Creek Reserve at UC Davis and the UC Sagehen Creek reserve in Tahoe National Forest. We thank Andrew Fulks and Jeff Brown for allowing us to work at these reserves. Elizabeth Frost and the UC Davis Bee Biology facility allowed us to clone willows in their backyard in 2012, and Jill Baty did the same in 2011. This study was supported by USDA regional grant NC-7 (R. K.) as well as JSPS (K. S.).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian S. Pearse
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kathy Hughes
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kaori Shiojiri
    • 4
  • Satomi Ishizaki
    • 5
  • Richard Karban
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUC DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Lab of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Center for Population BiologyUC DavisDavisUSA
  4. 4.The Hakubi Center for Advanced ResearchKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  5. 5.Graduate School of Science and TechnologyNiigata UniversityNishi-kuJapan

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