STILL CREEK LANDCARE – Smarty Plants! Are Plants Intelligent? Do they have Consciousness?

Contributed by Chris Noon

This may be bad news to vegans, as they will have to convert to eating only fungi to avoid eating sentient beings.

1. Plants process information and make decisions. Venus flytraps catch prey by snapping shut when an insect touches trigger hairs on the inside of their double-lobed leaves.

A German experiment anaesthetised them to deactivate their electrical activity so they stopped reacting when touched. When the anaesthetic wore off they resumed normal behaviour. Did they wake up like we do after anaesthetic, requiring consciousness? Peas do the same thing.

2. Plants pump water like we pump blood. In Hungary with 22 different species of trees, their branches were found to change their positions up and down on a regular cycle, for example birches hung 10cm lower at night, then rising in the morning. This may be associated with the pumping of water, a bit like what our hearts do.

3. Plants can hear. Pea roots can sense water underground. In WA three pipes were buried underground: in one a recorded swooshing sound, in the second real water flowed, in the third was a recording of the sound of water flowing but no actual water. The plants grew only towards the real water. Later, they found white noise irritating and moved away.

4. Plants can ignore noises that pose no threat. The roots of Arabidopsis (rockcress) orient themselves towards clicks at the 200hertz frequency and grow in that direction. In Missouri, researchers put caterpillars on Arabidopsis which munched them and shook the plants stems and recorded the vibrations. When these were later played to plants not being eaten, large quantities of defensive chemicals were produced. Wind and other sounds with the same frequencies did not get the same reaction.

5. Plants work together and can smell. As a defense mechanism against being eaten, Acacias boost the Tannin in their leaves to make them unpalatable and harder to digest. Simultaneously, ethylene is put into the air to warn other Acacias of danger. Within minutes these plants start producing extra tannin in their leaves. This is why Giraffes graze facing into the wind when they’re rapping their tongues around an Acacia.

What next? Will there soon be groups wanting to avoid cruelty to plants and allow them to vote?

This was paraphrased indirectly from a new book “The Heartbeat of Trees: embracing Our Ancient bond With Forests and Nature” by Peter Wohlleben (Black Inc). The research institutes referred therein do exist.

If you would like help or further information, contact Nick on 9653 2056, via email [email protected] or visit Still Creek Landcare at or on Facebook.