Wednesday, 12 of August of 2020

The Martyr Group Effect in Plants

I observed this phenomenon which I call simply ‘the group effect’ for the first time many years ago with a single row of Cherry Tomatoes I was gowing on organically. The plans were isolated in a courtyard with a mixture of other mostly ornamental flowering plants in pots.

One of the about eight plants, which I call the martyr plant, took all the so called attacks of various insects including aphids, rust and some whitefly on various occasions while the other 7 plants in the isolated group basically remained clear of any.

The common mistake all gardeners make is to remove and replace the martyr plant which will result in another plant in the group serving as martyr or the group may even be totally affected in such cases, maybe due to the absence of the martyr plant or confusion as to which member could be next in line or should be nominated to be the next martyr plant.

In other cases, the responsibility may even be shared among more than one plant. One may be infected by let’s say whitefly and another by rust, but the same organic gardening principle can be observed.

In isolated groups of evergreen trees and shrubs of the same species I have observed similar behavior. Even among large conifers of the same species, I am convinced one may have to die back partially even without specific cause to provide an abundant aspect of dry wood which will play host to more insect life including wood boring insects such as let’s say the Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineu).

The martyr plant or tree has to be left intact to complete its role.

To remove the martyr plant due to the aspect of dead material which modern gardeners frown at, another tree may have to die to take its place and if the delicate balance of the whole group is disturbed, maybe more than one.

If the martyr plant is removed the rest of the group flourishes due to higher immune system and as a result of information provided by the martyr tree to the group. In forest conditions I suppose it may be another question, survival of the fittest perhaps?

Another  aspect of dry materials in design:

We may all love some perfect all green Hollywood style gardens and I like some too, but i have fallen in love with the natural aspect of dead material of the season before  and I try to appreciate the rustic esthetical value as well as a resource not only to start a fire but to provide natural habitat.

Leave plants to complete their lifecycle up to the end of selfseeding or then at least  apply dead material elsewhere to the mulch layer.

Dead material feed the soils micro biology which in turn provides the natural fertilizer plants need to flourish.

Giving someting back to the land.



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