Plant Intelligence: Can Plants Think?
Stimulus or Something Else?
It makes sense that just about everything we consider "alive" has some type of stimulus response to its surroundings, but could there be something more? If a plant could count, communicate, show memory, or unleash chemical warfare would that change your opinion?
I can only imagine the whispers and inside jokes of someone studying plant neurobiology as they walk down the hallway. Probably something akin to a professor of parapsychology (I like parapsychology by the way). However, research has shown that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, and that an open mind when approaching science can lead to great discoveries.
Plants Can Remember
Most people think of plants as nothing more than just that, plants! Author Michael Pollan describes research in where plants were able to listen to recordings of caterpillars eating leaves and the plants had a particular response. This isn't that much different than signals intelligence where a certain sound by an engine can create a specific signature. The signature is collected and then can be analyzed to determine what produced the signal. For example the engine of a specific fighter jet would produce vibrations specific to that particular engine. Essentially plants may have a sixth sense to measure vibrations and learn if it is a threat or not, and commit it to memory.
- New research on plant intelligence may forever change how you think about plants | Public Radio Inte
Plants have senses that put humans to shame. Not only do they hear (yes, it's true) and smell, they can also sense the presence of water, and even an object in their space. Now new research suggests that plants can actually learn and remember.
Plants Can Count
Greg Gage performed a live experiment in front of an audience with the infamous Venus Fly Trap. The plant, to conserve resources, will not close after being touched only once. If the plant is touched more than once on its sensing hairs, within a certain amount of time, it will close. The plant has the ability to efficiently capture flies without wasting resources on an accidental belief that a fly is there. The plant has some sense of time and ability to count. That would be impressive even for a preschooler.
Greg Gage Doing Plant Experiments
Plants Can Communicate
Paul Stamets explains how fungi can create a network not unlike like the internet. Other species can plug into this network and share information. The largest organism on the planet is a 2000+ acre mycelial mat of fungus which is one of these living internets. Other studies have shown that plants can help feed each other through the network and release toxins against invasive species. In some cases the phantom orchid steals carbon from the fungi network committing a sort of "cyber crime" to benefit itself.
Paul Stamets: Ted Talks
- BBC - Earth - Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus
Hidden under your feet is an information superhighway that allows plants to communicate and help each other out. It’s made of fungus
It's certainly not easy to look at a plant and think of it as having intelligence. Many of the above cases may appear to be nothing more than a typical stimulus with an interesting response. But there can be little argument that these responses aren't extremely awesome and spark the imagination. One thing for sure is plants have been around a lot longer than we humans have so it should be no surprise if they picked up a few tricks along the way.