In what researchers have termed the "wood wide web," it turns out that plants communicate with each other via subterranean fungal networks; they share nutrients and information, and they also can sabotage their neighbors by sending toxic chemicals through the fungal colonies. If this reminds you of Avatar, you're not alone.
Being part of fungal networks (mycelial networks) makes plants more resistant to disease, since fungus boosts plants immune systems (plants have immune systems?!?) by priming the plant to produce defense-related chemicals. (This is analogous to how vaccinations make our bodies quicker and more effective at combating disease.)
Trees transfer carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus to each other (and may even nurture and protect young saplings-- their children-- in this manner). Certain plants, such as the aptly-named phantom orchid, steal nutrients from trees via the fungal internet. Researchers have called this "cybercrime."
Further, when plants are attached by blight (harmful fungi) or hungry critters such as aphids, they release warning signals to give their neighbors time to prepare for the impending attack. One cannot help but think of a leafy Paul Revere-- "The blights are coming! The blights are coming!"
In case this doesn't make you interested in fungus, consider this:
What's the fastest living organism? A peregrine falcon, right? WRONG. It's a fungus.
What's the largest living organism? Blue whales?! Aspen colonies?? WRONG. It's a fungus.
What's the creepiest living organism, a real-world example of mind control and zombie terror? Um... is it a huma- WRONG. It's a fungus.
If we really want to prepare for a hostile takeover of earth, we should stop looking at the stars and imagining oval-headed aliens.
Because an army of fungi -- with legions of plant minions-- is amassing beneath our very feet.
It's an information superhighway that speeds up interactions between a large, diverse population of individuals. It allows individuals who may be widely separated to communicate and help each other out. But it also allows them to commit new forms of crime. No, we're not talking about the internet, we're talking about fungi.