Mass warnings about the dangers of the deadly plant and its unclear link to Midwest farm food products helped decrease the global infection rate. While that was excellent news and measurable progress in getting the plague epidemic under control, it brought about another dire problem. With all importing and distribution of the corn and wheat being banned worldwide, there was a massive food shortage. The leaders of the CGC consortium demanded immediate answers on how and why the deadly strain of Toxicodendron radicans was infecting the food supply.
Dr. Wallace Newton called a special meeting at CGC headquarters. He had been tasked with investigating the curious link between the deadly new strain of poison ivy and the food supply as soon as it was identified. Since that day, samples of the toxic subspecies were located all over North America. It had spread to all indigenous areas and regions of its growing range. His esteemed colleagues and the entire population of the planet were not going to be happy with his findings. He brought along one of the world’s foremost experts in human biology and nutrition for maternal support.
“These species of plants have an overlapping ecosystem; and have for thousands of years.”; Dr. Newton began in earnest. “All plants have a ‘personal view’ of whether the other species within their competitive environment are ‘symbiotic’ to them, or ‘parasitic’. It doesn’t matter to the organism how humans view them. While mankind may have decided thousands of years ago that corn and wheat is beneficial to us, the poison ivy plant sees our farm crops as parasitic competitors for space.”
A short glance around the room made it clear that Dr. Newton’s lecture about the plant’s viewpoint, had mostly missed its mark. First and foremost, the various scientists present were expecting good news. Secondly, they had no interest in an exercise in alternate perspectives or complicated analogies. The doctor decided to press on, undeterred.
“What was once a huge frontier of uncontested growth for the ivy plant has now been completely replaced by man, for our agricultural needs.”; He added with emphasis. “While the Toxicodendron radicans might have been able to compete for soil space against a wild wheat species three thousand years ago, it’s not an even battle now. Our heavily engineered, hybrid grain species and advanced farming practices has a distinctive edge. Essentially the ivy plant has been pushed aside. Now it occupies only a tiny fraction of its original growth range because of a ‘recent’ interloper, us. This evolution to a far more toxic form of its species is the plant’s biological way of defending itself from systematic elimination.”
“Doctor. Doctor. Please. What is the point to this botanical lesson?”
“Basically what I’m saying is that these plants are in a biological war with each other. That’s not meant to be deep metaphor or symbolism.”; He remarked in exasperation. “It’s a literal war and we’ve been caught in their evolutionary crossfire. To make matters infinitely worse, since we ‘sided’ with the grains and helped make them become stronger, we are their enemy too. This plague is their blitzkrieg and wrath.”
“Who? The plants? Come on now Wallace! Give is a break! Surely you don’t really believe a plant species is seeking revenge or retaliation on mankind, do you? That would imply these primitive organisms have somehow achieved a consciousness and understand the competitive circumstances of human agriculture. That’s a bridge of ‘crazy’ which I’d guess that many of us are not ready to cross.”
“Yes, I absolutely do.”; ‘Wally’ defended curtly. “If I had told you three months ago that one tenth of the global population would die in a mysterious plague linked to poison ivy, would you have believed me? Step outside that box you are locked in for a moment. While it’s still not a consciousness by animal or human standards, this particular plant has developed a much greater level of comprehensional understanding than its flora peers. A few thousand years ago they were all wild plants growing wherever they could find to survive. Now mankind has interfered with the natural process of survival of the fittest. All by domesticating grains and engineered them for our farming purposes. I can’t explain how any plant species could evolve enough to ‘understand’ the animal kingdom but I will say this. We know that all plants have a general awareness of their environment. They have a nervous system of sorts. They even recognize threats to their well being. If a Venus flytrap can seize its prey and devour it, why is it so hard to accept that a species that already uses an oily resin to protect itself, might evolve to having a much greater chemical defense against those who intend to do it harm?”
Dr. Newton’s naysayer paused a moment to respond. This time far more respectfully than before. “No one here is doubting your research findings about Toxicodendron radicans evolving to produce deadly levels of urushiol, Wally. Its definitely a sound hypothesis. It’s just hard to accept they would be consciously ‘out to get us’. That’s all. Surely you can see how ‘kooky’ that might come across. I wasn’t trying to attack your research credibility or methodology.”
“Plants reach up for the sun, and instinctually wrap themselves around taller objects nearby to gain advantage over others. Flowers slowly open and close their pedals based on the time of day or the moisture in the air. Many species produces enticing nectar to lure bees and birds to distribute their reproductive pollen since they can not do it on their own. Now I’m presenting evidence to those here that at least one plant species has consciously adapted and evolves to defend its shrinking environment. This particular creature already secretes a strong chemical weapon to discourage predators from eating it. It doesn’t take a botanist to admit that, right? Now it has weaponized itself to a greater degree against it’s newest threat; grains and mankind.”
A great uproar filled the room. The lead botany expert at the CGC was expecting them to accept that a deadly poison ivy species was actually ‘angry’ at corn, wheat and human beings for nurturing and harvesting them. His scientific facts were very well researched but the fringe aspects of his theory drifted way too far into emotionalism. No one was prepared to ascribe human-like emotions to an undomesticated plant. Even one as deadly as the hybrid species that had already decimated fifteen percent of the world’s population.