Opening soon – October 10th, 2021
The Museum, Kitchener, Ontario
My concept for this installation stems from (;p) Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, How they communicate.
Wohlleben talks about how Trees feel pain (even scream), raise their children, and help other sick trees by providing nutrients through their roots.
When predators (e.g., insects) begin feasting on tree bark or leaves, trees are able to defend themselves. “Oaks, for example, carry bitter, toxic tannins in their barks and leaves,” says Wohlleben. Trees (and plants) recognize when they are under attack and release chemicals, warning neighbouring trees (and plants) of predators.
Trees and plants communicate.
Mycorrhizal fungi & the Wood Wide Web
University of Toronto are generously donating transgenic plants for this installation- while I fiddle away with CRISPR at my studio adding GFP to tobacco plants.
Either one large terrarium for this eco-system or perhaps 2 separate eco-systems with 1 tube that connects them- to see if the fungi network connects.
The glowing plants require UV/Black light. While The Museum can modify lighting for various exhibits, etc., I think we might need to create a small area people walk into that has light blocked out or maybe a section of the terrarium uses a tinted Lexan- we shall see.
Mutualistic associations between plants and fungi are incredibly widespread, occurring in 90% of extant land plants, and likely are the most ecologically important symbiotic relationships on Earth. Fungi played an integral part in land plant evolution; roots only evolved after early land plants colonised terrestrial environments and these associations allowed for mutualistic exchange of inorganic nutrients and water for carbohydrates in harsh environments predating existing soils. The majority of extant land plants are associated with the Mucoromycota sub phylum Glomeromycotina, a division of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that penetrate the cortical cells of plant roots for nutrient exchange. Because of this associative abundance together with fossil evidence, it has long been hypothesised that this division of fungi facilitated colonisation of land by early plants. However, a recent study showed evidence that another Mucoromycota sub phylum, Mucoromycotina, was likely responsible for enabling the establishment of early land plants, and that Glomeromycotina was a secondary acquisition. This study also revealed that transitions from one fungal phyla to another, such as to species from the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, or forming symbioses with multiple fungal partners, may have led to unique niche expansions and radiations such as those seen in the orchids, the largest family of land plants on Earth, as well as plants adapted to nutrient poor or acidic soil. The importance of Mucoromycotina in land plant evolution will likely become more apparent as the relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and plants are further explored1.
Huge gratitude and thank you to A Space Gallery and the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this work.