No one-size-fits-all for plant defenses

This butterfly may be happily slurping nectar from a harmless-looking wildflower, but if its caterpillars nibble on the leaves they’re in for a nasty surprise:  the chewing triggers chemical defenses that make the plant taste bad. In experiments from the foothills to the mountains in the Rockies, researchers in the Mitchell-Olds lab have shown that the Boechera stricta plant comes in different chemical “flavors.” In a new study, they show that while some flavors work better to ward off munching insects, others protect plants against a different enemy -- drought. The overall effect is that multiple variants stick around for a long time across the plant’s range.