If you think of the animal kingdom as a pyramid of intelligence, you might place humans at the top, and plants down at the bottom. However, new research may be about to change all that, as it has been revealed that plants can think, feel, and even possess a basic form of intelligence.
The Secret Life of Plants
In a study in the journal Plant Signaling & Behavior (1), researchers at Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland, studied a variety of plants and tried to understand how and why plants behave in the ways they do. An important fact that lead much of the research is, that unlike animals, plants do not have a way to escape any stresses in their immediate environment.
This inability to escape could be at the core of how they developed what the researchers called a “sophisticated… dynamic physiology.” (1) Plants have to be inventive in how they survive because they can’t move away from threats, or environmental irritations (such as low light). In the case of trees, they are able to survive in one location for thousands and thousands of years.
The researchers explain, “plants solve their optimal light acclimation and immune defenses… by a computational algorithm of the cellular automation.” Essentially, plants become computers, solving issues within their environment, furthering their survival. They found that plants processed this information “encrypted in light intensity and in its energy.” so use their light-sensitive cells to process and understand data (1). Light itself not only gives them energy, but feeds them information that they decode and understand.
Plants Have Memories
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The researchers went on to show how it is very likely that plants have what is, to all intents and purposes, a memory. This memory allows them to store valuable data that they could rely on in the future, for survival. They explain, “information from the spectral composition of light [can be stored] for several days… to anticipate changes that might appear in the near future.” A plant could use this to predict a pathogen attack, for example (1). Pretty useful information!
They can also use this memory to ‘train’ other areas of the plant in how to survive. Young leaves that sprout out won’t know what to expect from the environment they are growing in. What will the light be like? How are the levels of carbon dioxide? The older leaves, however, do know, and will teach the younger leaves to prepare them. They will even absorb extra sunlight in order to have the energy to pass this knowledge on (1).
Why Are These Discoveries Important?
This research gives us a new perspective on plants and the importance of their place on this planet. As soon as we understand that plants have this sentience and intelligence, concepts such as deforestation seem ridiculous. How can we continue to destroy Earth, when it has such intelligence at its very core?
It might also help us to recognize the Earth as one being, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of all living things. Suddenly, the perception of the world as ‘other’ and our desire to take over as much land as possible becomes trivial. Plants’ importance here becomes even clearer when you consider that even their very presence in our immediate environment has healing benefits (3).
So the next time you take a walk through the park, take a moment to appreciate the wise old trees that surround you. If you don’t respect them, they might never forget!
1. Stanislaw Karpinski M. Secret life of plants: From memory to intelligence. Plant Signaling & Behavior. 2010;5(11):1391. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115239/. Accessed September 1, 2016.
2. Research Reveals Plants Can Think, Choose & Remember. Greenmedinfocom. 2016. Available at: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/research-reveals-plants-can-think-choose-remember. Accessed September 1, 2016.
3. The Presence of Plants. Greenmedinfocom. 2016. Available at: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/therapeutic-action/presence-plants. Accessed September 1, 2016.
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