We’ve all seen those fabulous dewdrops, twinkling in the pale early morning sunlight. Did you know plants were behind the most beautiful ones? Delve into the secrets of guttation, one of the most amazing mysteries of the plant kingdom.
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In this post, we’ll describe what is inside those dewdrops that form along the edges of leaves, and whether they’re dangerous for us – and for the rest of nature!
Contents of guttant (or guttation fluid)
Guttant is produced by the plant itself. It contains many things that are usually found in sap.
→ Here: on a horsetail stem (one of the most interesting in terms of nutrients)
- minerals & metals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and salt (sodium)
- sugars like glucose, galactose
- nutrients and amino acids
- viruses, bacteria, fungi (dormant and active), depending on the host plant
- microscopic cell debris from nearby wounds on the plant
- proteins and compounds the plant uses to defend itself (antibacterial and antiviral)
- toxins and contaminants the plant seeks to expel
- particles that gather on the surface of leaves: epiphyte microbial life, dust…
It varies greatly a lot on the plant, growth stage, soil, weather, season, temperature, etc.
- Nutrient-dense and micro-organism-filled guttant explains why it’s best to harvest weeds at that time to prepare fermented weed tea. Weedy tea is a natural way to control diseases, pests, and fertilize.
Guttation vs dew
Dew results from water condensing from the air down onto leaves and stems. As such, it’s mostly chemically pure water. However, in some cases, it can carry small particles of matter and pollutants that were floating in the sky. This happens often in polluted areas, places where many wildfires occur, and also during pollen season.
Guttation will always be much more nutritious than pure dew. Good to know if you’re in survival mode!
How to tell dew and guttation apart
Dewdrops usually form on the surface of leaves, on the topside.
A key way to distinguish guttation from dew is to look for patterns. Indeed, since guttation depends on the plant, it’ll appear based on how the plant works. For some, it’ll be along the edges of leaves, at regular intervals. For others, it’ll be at leaf joints, or at the tips of flowers.
It’ll also appear on leaves that are deeper down in the plant, even underneath it.
Dew, on the other hand, comes from the sky and falls down: it won’t gather on leaves that are lower down on the shrub. Leaves that are covered by other leaves or plants won’t have any dew on them, but they’ll still have guttation.
Is guttation dangerous?
For a plant, guttation is usually a sign of good health. However, in some cases, guttation is sometimes bad for the plant.
For us humans, and pets or animals, it’s nearly impossible to contract illness, disease, or problems from drinking or brushing against guttation.
There is no known allergy to guttation fluid, except in cases where the plant itself induces allergies.
- Poison ivy guttation also causes allergies even if you don’t touch the plant.
Guttation and pollinators:
→ Some of the best shrubs for pollinators are also known to produce lots early-morning dew even during dry spells.
This is particularly dangerous for such insects when plants they drink from have been sprayed with pesticides and insecticides.
- Chemicals, even when washed off of leaves into the soil, are pumped back up through the plant and appear in guttation drops.
- Sometimes, when seeds were coated with fungus and insect deterrents, those chemicals still appear in guttation droplets. That’s why it’s best to keep your own seeds or go for organic ones.
- Bees that drink from these contaminated drops can die in minutes.
- In extreme cases, entire bee colonies can die off. This is one possible explanation of Colony Collapse disorder.
This proves how important it is to always refrain from using chemicals. It’s far better to use natural, home-made fertilizer and pest control instead.
- Guttation actually increases the effect of organic Bacillus thuringiensis, “Bordeaux mixture” and sulfur treatments since it concentrates copper and sulfur around leaf edges. This is where pests and caterpillars take their first bites…