Plants do not have eyes or ears, but they are still able to sense things. Researchers also know that plants can learn and adapt to their surroundings. Although current studies do not show that a tree or flower can feel pain, plants can sense when you are eating them. They lack a nervous system, but they have their own type of intelligence.
When you think of senses, the five ones found in humans, which are sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, usually come to mind. However, plants have different ways of sensing the world. They lack brains and nervous systems, yet they are able to respond to their environment.
For example, researchers have found that plants can sense when a caterpillar is eating them. It is not clear how a leaf can discern this without nerve cells or a neural network. However, researchers believe that a plant’s ability to send electrical signals may play a role. In addition, some plants have neurotransmitters, similar to the ones in humans, which may also contribute to a flower being able to sense a bug munching on its petals. Despite this, researchers do not think plants can feel pain when you eat them.
Plants are also able to react to environmental stresses. They can change shapes, close flowers and grow around things. When they are under attack, such as during a caterpillar invasion, plants can release extra defenses like additional mustard oil to fight back.
Plants can remember things. They may not be able to tell you a fun story about their childhood or reminisce about a relative, but they can retain some types of information. An experiment by Monica Gagliano showed that the mimosa pudica plant could remember and learn from previous experiences. When Gagliano dropped the plants without hurting them, they stopped responding by closing their leaves after a while because they seemed to realize that this experience was harmless.
The idea that plants may be intelligent is controversial. They do not have brains and do not think like animals. They cannot make decisions or sense the world in the same way that a person can. However, this does not mean that they lack their own special intelligence.
One of the accepted definitions of intelligence is being able to learn and apply that knowledge. Studies show that plants can learn from their environment and respond to it. Gagliano’s experiment revealed that they can remember previous experiences and apply that knowledge to a current situation. You may not be able to have a deep conversation with a plant about Plato, but you can appreciate its ability to survive and adapt.
- BBC: Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond
- University of Melbourne: Plants Have Feelings Too
- Gizmodo: Nice Try, Vegans: Plants Can Actually Hear Themselves Being Eaten
- Natural History Magazine: Do Plants Have Brains?
- Springer: Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters