11 years ago I posted this April 1st blog about plants screaming when cut by a lawnmower http://whataplantknows.blogspot.com/.../screaming-plants...
Sunday, April 2, 2023
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Bishvat, the Jewish Arbor Day is a call against "plant blindness". When I say "plant
blindness", I'm not referring to a plant's visual acuity. Plants are
anything but blind. While plants may not see in pictures like you or me, they
are acutely aware of the surrounding light in their environments. Plants
discern between blue and red light, and use this information to know which
direction to grow. Your plants on the windowsill bend to the sunlight so that
they can absorb the light needed for photosynthesis, the energy-producing
metabolism of the plant. Plants actually know how to measure the length of the
night, the period between sunset and sunrise. Plants differentiate between the
ever-dimming scarlet light of sunset, and the brightening orange light of
sunrise, and use this information to determine when to flower.
blindness" relates less to the plants' abilities, as it does to ours: we
are often blind to plants.
not to say that we don't see plants. We see them all around us: Arazim and
Orenim in the forest, grass in our lawns, shkadia blossoms in harei jerusalem,
and rakafot and calaniot in the field. We see miles of wheat fields as we drive
south on Route 6. While we see plants as passive objects in our visual
landscape, we are blind to their complexity. The static plant world we
experience belies a dynamic plant community that includes perception, communication
and complex information processing.
are we blind to the complexity of the plant world? First, plant movements, with
the noted exception of a few rapid movers such as the Venus Fly Trap, occur
over long timeframes – too slow for our impatient eyes. Leaves slowly move up
and down in response to changes in temperature and light; stems dance in
various shapes ranging from circles to figure 8s, but only over a course of
several hours, so that only though time-lapse photography do we discern these
purposeful motions that characterize the plant world.
we see only half of the plant world – the stems, leaves and flowers.
Underground, the other half of the plant world, the roots, are continuously
exploring, probing the soil for nutrients, signs of water, and differentiating
between friend and foe. The roots of some species are so advanced that they
grow away from their cousins, but will grow over, and steal resources from
roots of another species!
to combat plant blindness in humans, we have to learn to appreciate the
complexity we can't see. We need to learn to see the beauty in the thousands of
meticulous scientific studies which have elucidated the ways plants sense their
environment, whether by seeing light, or smelling their neighbors, or listening
why should plants be so complex in their abilities to sense the environment? To
survive. As opposed to us, plants are literally rooted in one place. They can't
escape their environment. Humans and other animals respond to hostile
environments by running away, by seeking out more hospitable conditions. Plants
can't run away from stress. Held in place, they must suffer extreme changes in
temperature, drought and flooding, strong winds, and insect infestations. Their
survival is not based on the ability to escape, but rather to adapt. Thus plants
have to be very aware of changes in their environment so that they can quickly
respond and survive.
plants are acutely aware of the world around them. They are aware of their
visual environment. They are aware of aromas surrounding them and respond to
minute quantities of volatile compounds wafting in the air. Plants know when
they are being touched and they are aware of gravity – they can change their
shapes to ensure that shoots grow up and roots grow down. And plants are aware
of their past – they remember past infections and the conditions they’ve
weathered, and then modify their current physiology based on these memories. And
most importantly they integrate all this diverse information to yield a plant
exquisitely adapted to its current environment.
need to appreciate a plants'
complexity, because there is one more thing we are blind to when it comes to
plants - We are blind to our dependence on them. We
wake up in our house made of wood from the forests of Maine, pour a cup of
coffee brewed from the coffee beans grown in Brazil, throw on a tee-shirt made
of Indian cotton, and eat a locally-sourced tomato and cucumber salad, with toast
made from wheat grown in Kansas. We drive our kids to school in a car with
tires made of rubber that was grown in Africa and fueled by gasoline derived
from Cycad trees that died millions of years ago. Chemicals extracted from
plants can cure cancer and reduce fever, or increase our appetite, calm our
nerves or block pain. And most
importantly, we breathe the oxygen produced by plants worldwide.
is totally dependent on ensuring the continuation of plant life on Earth. So
doesn't it behoove us thie Tu B'shvat to be a bit more appreciative of plants?
To truly see them for what they are – complex and amazing organisms which not
only make us happy to look at, but which provide us with the gift of life.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
“Plant Intelligence” has been greatly debate by plant biologists and philosophers alike [1–9]. Yet throughout this debate, no measure of plant intelligence has been proposed.
Indeed, if plant intelligence exists, it must be quantifiable similar to human intelligence .
Towards this end, the Daily Plant introduces the VQ, the "Vegetal Quotient", which will be the plant equivalent of IQ.
We assume that some plants will have a high VQ, akin to genius plants, while others will be vegetally challenged, and have a relatively low VQ.
To make the VQ statistically valid, we need your help. Please fill in the VQ form below. Just as Binet’s original test has been modified over the past century , we realize that this test is only a beginning. However with your help we can make the VQ as valid a description of plant intelligence as IQ is of human intelligence.
If the form below does not work, click here.
Much thanks for your help!