A book written in the 70s claimed that plants were sensitive beings that liked classical music and had emotions. This book was called, The Secret Life of Plants.
The book contained notes of experiments with music, polygraphs and vegetables. The science in the book has now mostly been discredited, but after reading the book, people began talking to their plants and playing music for them, and most certainly people still do today.
So when Michael Pollan first started discussing the possibility that plants can be intelligent, he was labeled a “whacko”. Following years of scientific studies, with this new research field known as plant neurobiology, scientists are adamant that plants can sense, learn, remember and react.
These scientists believe that plants take the sensory data they collect throughout their daily lives and they change their behavior based on the information they have gathered. What really blows the minds of scientists is that these plants are doing this without a brain.
One study revealed that when water as dropped onto the leaves, the initial response by the plant was to retract the leaves. But what interested scientist’s was that the plant would learn to keep the leaves open when they realized the water was not harmful.
Another study was performed by which the sound of caterpillars eating plant leaves was played to the plants, and the plants reacted. These plants secreted a chemical because it felt threatened, even though it wasn’t because it was just a recording but it showed that plants don’t need ears to hear.
A further study found that plant roots sought to seek out a buried water pipe that was flowing with water, suggesting that plants can hear the sound of water flowing and seek it out.
How plants feel pain scientists still aren’t sure. They don’t have nerve cells like humans do but they do have their own system of sending signals.
An animal biologist Monica Gagliano, tried to submit a paper suggesting that a plant could learn, her paper was rejected by 10 different scientific journals until it was finally printed. She conducted a similar study to Pollan whereby she tested how the mimosa plant responded to stimuli. Her study showed the same results, that the plant remembered and learnt that it was not in danger so it did not retract its leaves.
What was really fascinating was that she re-rested the plants a few weeks later and they still remembered that they were not in danger from that particular stimuli!
Plants are able to influence each other and communicate through nanomechanical oscillations, which is like plant telepathy. Perhaps with this new research the time has come to view the plant as much more than a green passive object in our home or garden.
So what can we do with these discoveries? If plants can sense when an attack on them is imminent, they produce a secretion, mustard oil to deter the insect. If we really understand and learn more about this approach, it could be very useful to agriculture.
Where does this leave the moral vegan? If plants do in fact have feelings, should vegans continue to eat our green friends?
Buddha said “One should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak in the world”… which begs the question with this new scientific discovery- what on earth can we eat?
See the video below from Michael Pollan.
By Holly W.