Researchers from Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand) Sebastian Leisinger and Martin Bader discovered a strange cowrie tree stump in a local forest. The trunk collapsed long ago, there were no branches or leaves on the stump, which meant the absence of photosynthesis and the certain death of the plant. However, this particular tree stump was not only alive, but also quite successfully extracting sap from the surrounding trees, which puzzled the scientists - why did they allow him to do this?
The traditional view of trees as solitary, isolated organisms is fundamentally wrong. Modern science knows a lot of examples when the root system of trees is combined into a biological complex. This is the key to their survival - an array of trees can draw resources from a large area of land and receive more sunlight than a single plant. Such symbionts usually belong to the same species and pump nutrients through the roots, sharing them with each other.
Scientists measured the movement of sap in the stump found and established a clear relationship with a drop in its level in neighboring, connected trees. In other words, the supposedly dead tree stump continues to thrive on the surrounding plants.
It was this fact that became the subject of interest and controversy. Why did the "community" of trees feed the "freeloader" who can no longer benefit her? Most likely, until recently it was a whole tree that collapsed, but managed to grow into the surrounding plant community, becoming its integral part.