Are Plants Intelligent?
It may seem laughable to some, but there have actually been debates in the scientific community on whether plants actually possess intelligence. And yes, there are scientists who believe that, certain plant species are actually “intelligent” despite the absence of a brain.
Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, authors of the 1973 New York Times best-selling book “The Secret Life of Plants,” claimed that plants can actually read people’s minds as proven by the experiments of Cleve Backster, a former CIA polygraph expert.
Additionally, a 2013 article published by The New Yorker titled “The Intelligent Plant,” postulated that plants really do possess intelligent behaviour even without brains in the traditional human and animal sense.
While such extraordinary claims are still being debated up to this day, it’s nonetheless interesting to note that the findings of such studies present us with a different view of the plant kingdom. For people who love plants, this is such a great avenue to explore if only to gain a deeper appreciation of these already amazing creations.
Are Plants Intelligent – Behavioral Characteristics of Plants
There have been numerous research papers, experiments, and scientific studies conducted to test if plants indeed possess behavioral characteristics normally observed among humans and animals. These scientific endeavors have now proven decisively that at least five behavioral characteristics can be attributed to certain plant species:
Plants can communicate. A great majority of recent studies on plants suggest that plants, specifically trees, communicate with each other through Mycorrhizal networks. Such networks are used by plants to transport nutrients and even ‘warn’ each other about potential threats like predators.
Scientists even suggested that entire forests can actually run on such a communication facility, essentially forming what can be considered as nature’s internet. Pretty neat, right?
Plants can ‘learn’ things. In the same fashion as Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiments on dogs, researchers from the Western Australia University subjected pea plants to a classical conditioning experiment.
The experiment involved conditioning the pea plants to create an association between a fan’s breeze and light. The fan served as the stimulus and the light served as the response associated as food. For four days, the researchers turned the fan and the light simultaneously to teach the plants to associate the fan’s breeze with food.
The experiment remarkably conditioned the pea plants to lean towards the fan’s direction upon ‘feeling’ its breeze since they have associated the breeze with food. Such response became apparent even without subsequently turning on the light.
Plants have memory. Yes, as outrageous as it may seem, experiments have shown without a doubt that certain plant species can recall things and form a specific response from such memories.
In what was called the “Plant Drop” experiment, researchers subjected 56 mimosa pudica plants (called “sensitive plant”) to 60 repetitive drops on an elevator-like platform with 5-second intervals. They observed that the plants would fold in response to each drop as part of their natural reflex.
After the 60th drop, the plants stopped folding altogether, as if knowing from memory that the succeeding drops are not dangerous at all.
Such results prove with a high level of certainty that plants can memorize the outcomes of repetitive experiences and consequently form a definitive physical response to similar situations.
Plants can defend themselves. Not only can certain plant species warn each other of approaching predators, they can also defend themselves if needed.
Mustard plants, for example, secrete powerful toxins coincidental with the landing of mold spores during the early morning. The toxin is the plant’s defense mechanism against such known predator and is perfectly timed since improper timing of release could actually harm the plant itself.
Plants can solve problems. Ultimately, the examples mentioned above show that plants can actually solve simple problems. It’s easy to see how the plants managed to arrive at a solution to very specific situations and to perfect their responses over time.
For a species that lacks traditional brains, such abilities are no less than remarkable and extremely interesting.
Are Plants Intelligent – The Most Intelligent Plant Species
So, with all the remarkably intelligent plant species out there, which one can be considered the most intelligent of all? That honor belongs to the Dodder plant.
The Dodder plant is a predatory plant that is known to extract valuable nutrients from its host plant. The Dodder’s extraordinary sense of smell allows it to check whether a specific plant species contains enough nutrients to allow the Dodder to thrive. The plant only attaches itself to plant species with the highest concentration of stored nutrients.
Upon finding a suitable host, the Dodder produces a haustoria, which taps into the host plant’s vascular system and allows the Dodder to extract nutrients.
Not only that, but recent studies have shown that Dodder plants also have the ability to get the RNA or ribonucleic acid information of tomatoes and Arabidopsis. Such genetic information is even passed on to other plant species, something which amazes researchers.
Additionally, the Dodder plant is found to have the capacity to self-edit its own DNA, which allows it to develop new proteins. All of these remarkable capabilities make the Dodder the most intelligent plant species so far.
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