As I’ve always said, plants are dirty, rotten liars. But sometimes, we are the blame for their bad behaviour. One of the first documented examples of plants lying to survive was that of a weedy grass that mimicked wheat. Eventually, we put enough selection pressure on it that it became a fine cereal crop, rye.
Now, China’s discovering that another grass, barnyard grass learned to mimic rice in its efforts to survive by avoiding hand weeding. DNA analysis shows that the mimicking and non-mimicking varieties diverged about 1000 years ago, a time of intensified rice cultivation.