Root communication among desert shrubs

Bruce E. Mahall, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


Descriptive and experimental studies of desert shrub distributions have revealed important questions about the mechanisms by which plants interact. For example, do roots interact by mechanisms other than simple competition for limiting resources? We investigated this question using the desert shrubs Ambrosia dumosa and Larrea tridentata grown in chambers that allowed observation of roots during intraplant and intra- and interspecific interplant encounters. Two types of root "communication" were revealed. Ambrosia root systems appear to be capable of detecting and avoiding other Ambrosia root systems, whereas Larrea roots inhibit Larrea and Ambrosia roots in their vicinity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-876
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991


  • Allelopathy
  • Competition
  • Interference
  • Root exudates
  • Self-nonself recognition


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