Plants live a secret life which is being revealed by science. The plants have been considered unintelligent for hundreds of years in western culture. The story of Noah’s ark does not mention the plants or the fungi which sustain all animal life. The plants move slowly and thus their behavior is more difficult to observe when compared with animals. Also the majority of the plant is usually found under the soil away from human eyes. The plants do not have a brain or a recognizable nervous system and science has largely assumed this means that plants cannot be intelligent.
Plants can interact with their surrounding environment in astonishing ways. The plants can communicate with each other as well as insects, birds, reptiles and other pollinators. When the movement of the plants is sped up they are very animal like. Plants are not isolated but rather are part of a larger community of organisms such as a forest, prairie or desert.
James (JC) Cahill is investigating if plants behave like animals. The information he has gathered provides evidence that some plants indeed act like animals. The root will seek out areas of nutrients when it find a patch it will slow its growth to consume nourishment. When seeking a distant nutrient patch it will develop and move quickly. This is a typical foraging pattern seen in many animals including human mushroom hunters (more on mushrooms later). The movement of the plant root in slow motion looks much like a worm in soil.
The leaves of many plants will move to capture the movement of light. Many plants become less active and the leaves close at night. The Venus fly trap is another example of a plant which behaves like an animal, it moves quickly as it eats insects and slugs. Plants can also claim territory by killing other plants like the nap weed and other invasive species.
The root structures of even small established plants have over 11,000,000 root tips each tip coordinated and intelligent with its movements. For a plant to move its roots they must grow and even this growth very much resembles the movement of worms. How can a plant coordinate millions of growing roots? The structure of these roots systems is much like the internet with its many independent branches in a network. One can remove 90 percent of the plants root and it can continue to survive the same is true with the internet. Let’s see how complex plant behavior above ground is with the sacred and powerful wild tobacco plant.
Wild Tobacco plant is an amazing plant which Ian Baldwin has studied focusing on its sophisticated ability to respond to threats in its environment. Its seed require a wild fire to begin their growth cycle and they can wait in the soil for hundreds of years for that to occur. The wild tobacco plants are attacked by many bugs and caterpillars in its harsh desert environment. Once attacked it releases a toxin, nicotine, which poisons any organism with muscles and thus poisons my bugs. The horn worm caterpillar eats the tobacco at an amazing speed eating a whole leaf in just minutes. The tobacco is sentient and once the caterpillar’s saliva is on the plant it recognizes its attacker and responds. The Tobacco releases a cry for help using a specific scent which attracts insects like the big eyed bug that attack the caterpillars. The plant knows what bugs to call and how to attract them using chemical volatiles or scents.
The wild tobacco also produces trichomes that have a smell which attracts ground foragers who eat the caterpillars like salamanders. When the caterpillars eat the trichomes they become delicious and easy to find treats for reptiles and rodents. The main pollinator is the Hawk moth which lays the caterpillar eggs. This is why the flowers of the tobacco bloom at night to attract the moth and to reproduce. The moth then lays eggs on the tobacco. Despite the tobaccos defenses they can be overrun with caterpillars. When this occurs the tobacco switches its pollinator. It changes its flowers and they began opening at dawn. The daytime flowers have a different look and smell. The day blooming tobacco flower has different sugar and nectar composition. The flower even changed shape and stopped bring in the hawk moth, instead it began to attract the humming birds. The tobacco chooses to switch its pollinator in just 8 days.
All these scents, signals and defenses are proving the tobacco plant has incredible awareness of its environment. Furthermore, it has been observed that the surrounding plants are listening in on the signals of the tobacco and may raise their defenses as well. The communities of plants are interacting in complex and adaptive ways. The forest is the best place to observe real living plant communities Suzanne Simard has been studying the forests in Canada and has made ground breaking discoveries, pun intended…. continued in the article Forest intelligence.
By Transpersonal Spirit.
Nature. What Plants Talk about. Merit motion production. Written directed by Erna Buffie. 2013. DVD.
Suzanne Simard. The networked healing of forests. Ted lessons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRSPy3ZwpBk.