Vanilla planifolia vine on a tree. [Submitted by Wikipedia User Esskay]

As a member of tropical forests, Vanilla planifolia has had to acquire some essential adaptations to help it survive in such a competitive environment.  One way in particular that Vanilla has gotten an edge on its competition is its ability to use the competition to its advantage.  Though it may sound silly, Vanilla planifolia has acquired the ability to climb trees, much like many other tropical vines.  The Vanilla uses the tree as a source of support, and then can grow 50 to 75 feet up the tree to reach the canopy and more sunlight for optimum photosynthesis.  An adaptation that makes this possible is Vanilla’s adventitious aerial roots, which allow it to cling to its substrate, in most cases, a tropical tree.

Sunlight seen through leaves.  [Taken by Hana Kirana, Found on Wikipedia].Plants use gravity and light to their advantage, and use their response to them to facilitate their best survival.  Vanilla planifolia relies on 'phototropism', or response to sunlight, to orient itself towards the sun, to get the most sunlight for photosynthesis possible.  It specifically uses the plant hormone 'auxin' (responsible for cell elongation) to elongate the cells on the side of the plant opposite to the sunlight, thus bending the top of the plant towards the sun.  The release, and control of hormones is controlled by the phytochrome molecule in Vanilla, and other plants .  Vanilla planifolia also uses gravitropism, or response to gravity to survive.  Positive gravitropism allows roots to sense the gravitational field, and find where 'down' is to grow in that direction.  The opposite is found for shoots, where they use where 'up' is to know if they are correctly oriented.  However, this last idea is still highly controversial. 

           Parts of the Vanilla planifolia plant [Created by Franz Eugen Koehler].

Everybody has to eat, and vanilla is no exception!  Let's see how vanilla takes in nutrients, shall we?
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