In 10 seconds? Global warming is causing an increase in extreme weather events, including wildfires. Researchers have recently discovered an unexpected side effect: smoke produced by wildfires boosts the natural defences of some plants.

What? How does that happen? Researchers applied liquid smoke to soil and examined the impact this had on sunflowers. They found that exposure to smoke caused the sunflowers to have larger, thicker leaves and thicker stems than plants kept in normal conditions. In addition, the leaves of the plants exposed to smoke also contained 35% more lignin. Lignin is a complex organic molecule that provides structure to a plant and is found in the cells, cell walls, and between the cells of all vascular plants. An increase in lignin makes plants tougher and protects them from herbivores and pathogens. The researchers also found that the plants exposed to smoke also produced twice as many flowers as the controls, suggesting an increase in seed production.

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