WTF Fun Fact 13143 – Grass Screams When Cut

You’ll never cut your grass again without thinking of this weird fact – grass cries for help when it’s mowed. No, you can’t hear it, but scientists have discovered grass screams when cut.

How does grass scream when cut?

We’re only just beginning to understand how plants communicate with one another and the rest of the world around them (including insects).

Dr. Michael Kolomiets, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist, published an article in 2014 in The Plant Journal noting that the aroma of cut grass is the plant’s way of both signaling distress and attracting beneficial insects that will help it heal.

According to ScienceDaily (cited below): “When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” Kolomiets said.

Plant communication

Grass produces a “defensive” protein when damaged. Of course, that doesn’t stop the lawnmower or insects from destroying the blades. But it appears to produce a compound that repels insects that are feeding on the damaged grass.

This compound, or one related to it, also appears to attract organisms like parasitic wasps that feed on insects like caterpillars that are destroying the grass.

Or to put it in science-speak:

“We have proven that when you delete these volatiles, parasitic wasps are no longer attracted to that plant,even when an insect chews on the leaf. So this volatile is required to attract parasitoids. We have provided genetic evidence that green leafy volatiles have this dual function — in the plant they activate production of insecticidal compounds, but also they have indirect defense capability because they send an SOS-type signal that results in attraction of parasitic wasps.”

So, maybe it’s not so much that grass screams when cut so much as it cries for help. Either way, freshly cut grass emits a compound that repels damaging insects and attracts insects with a protective function.

It’s just one of the many ways that plants are far more complex than we had ever previously imagined.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Mown grass smell sends SOS for help in resisting insect attacks” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 12624 – The Night Mower

Edwin Bearn Budding is the inventor of the lawnmower. It’s a bit hard to imagine a world without lawns (though we’ve heard they’re not so great for the environment) and the people who take pride in them. In fact, the average American spends 4 hours a week taking care of their lawn.

But at first, Budding wasn’t so sure about his contraption. The year was 1830, and no one technically had a lawn to be mowed. Naturally, he figured people would make fun of him for the invention. And perhaps they would have.

Budding was so self-conscious about the invention that he would only test out his lawnmower prototypes at night, under cover of darkness, so his neighbors couldn’t see him. Of course, these were manual mowers, so they didn’t have the tell-tale engines that let us know when our neighbor is mowing today, though his machine was reportedly pretty noisy.

Most inventors seem pretty stoked about their creations, but perhaps Budding was just humble. While he was born the illegitimate son of a farmer, he got an education that led him to an interest in technical matters. He became a pattern maker at an iron foundry, then a machinist at a cotton mill.

Before his lawnmower, he also invented a pistol more sophisticated than a Colt, but it appears Colt’s 1836 patent won out in the end.

Budding’s lawnmower was conceived of during his time in the cotton mills, and in many ways, it mimics the movements of a napping machine, which uses blades to trim off long fibers from cloth evenly and efficiently.

The wrought iron machine had adjustable blades and was pushed from behind while a tray collected clippings at the front. (Frankly, it sounds better than some of the manual push mowers around today.)

After the patent, Budding went into business with John Ferrabee, who owned Phoenix Iron Works, so the machine could be mass-produced and sold (after all, you don’t get anything from just inventing something). Things went well for the pair, and a few years later, they were attracting buyers across England, selling 1000 machines by 1840.

Budding died of a stroke in 1846, so he never got to see how his invention changed people’s lives. It was used to care for sports fields and public parks, improve gardens, and cut down on manual labor on farms (a scythe or a grazing animal was your only choice before the lawnmower).

It also created a whole new class of gardeners and groundsmen who used it to create gardens as status symbols. A bit later, they were explicitly marketed to women as a fashionable way to get exercise.

We’ve come a long way since then (for better or worse), but it’s incredible to think it all started with one man mowing his lawn in the dark. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Budding Lawn Mowers” — The Daily Gardener