Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Can plants communicate?

 The Atlantic has a fascinating article on plant communication with other plants. More information is being understood as research continues. I am not saying that plants are intelligent. And definitely not intelligent as we define the word, but still...

One of the basic principles in checking for intelligence is a nervous system that gets signals to the brain and then acts on them. Plants do not have nervous systems and, therefore, cannot be intelligent. But do we know everything?

Plant and animal evolution broke apart sometime in the very, very distant past as both evolved from simple organisms to more complex life. Today, a few scientists are questioning whether plants evolved with brains or nervous systems. But they may communicate via a method we don't understand yet. In any case, plants can definitely communicate.

Here are some examples. The first can be found just by googling.

This type of communication does not depend on any sort of breakthrough theories. We can explain this without resorting to active communication. But this article goes further.

These are the new examples from the article. They are from a new book called:

Plants communicate by chemicals. And it happens from plant to plant though the air.

Schlanger: Plants do have ways of communicating with each other. They’re able to synthesize all these incredibly specific chemicals in their bodies to match different conditions. And then they project them out via their pores. And then other plants take them up via these little pores. They have these pores on the backs of their leaves that look like little fish lips. It’s very funny under a microscope. And that contains some information.

So if a plant is being eaten by caterpillars, it will synthesize a chemical that then alerts other plants to sort of up their defenses before the caterpillar or pest or whatever even reaches

Do plants recognize each other? Yes, for "related" plants.

Schlanger: So kin recognition in plants is a fascinating field. It’s a very muddy field. We have parsed very little of this so far.

But we do know that sunflowers, for example—the traditional thinking with sunflowers is that you have to plant them quite far apart because otherwise they compete for resources so much that they try and shade each other out, so you end up with fewer sunflower seeds, which is not what sunflower farmers want. But certain research has found that when you place sunflowers with their genetic siblings, you can actually pack them so tightly because they will angle their stems to avoid shading each

Do plants make decisions?

But what I will say is that after spending all this time with the research, there’s a lot of plant behavior that looks a lot like decision-making. Often these are very, very simple decisions, like, input: There’s water over there. Output: Let’s grow towards it. But it also shows how much we don’t know. For instance, we know some plants are capable of storing information and then acting based on that information later.

Or, you know, in some instances, plants can count and then choose to do an action based on a certain number of things. There’s a classic example that people call the memory of winter—that a plant needs to have a certain number of days of cold for it to then bloom in the spring.

Do plants remember?

But yes, he says, he and his colleague Maximilian Weigend, the director of a botanical garden in Bonn, have observed the ability of Nasa poissoniana—a plant in the flowering Loasaceae family that grows in the Peruvian Andes—to store and recall information.

The pair noticed that the multicolor starburst-shaped flowers were raising their stamen, or fertilizing organs, shortly before a pollinator arrived, as if they could predict the future. The researchers set up an experiment and found that the plant in fact seemed to be learning from experience. These flowers, Henning and Weigend found, could “remember” the time intervals between bee visits, and anticipate the time their next pollinator was likely to arrive. If the interval between bee visits changed, the plant might actually adjust the timing of its stamen display to line up with the new schedule.

Do I believe this? I believe some plant communication can easily be proven. But is there some type of intelligence involved in this. I am unsure (which is miles away from certain they don't or certain they do.)

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