Plant Intelligence Is Incredible

I’ve always said that plants are much smarter than most people assume. While science is just now learning how and why plants do many different things, it was apparent to me over a decade ago that plants bloom for three reasons:

  1. To attract pollinators
  2. To continue the species.
  3. To manipulate a human to take it home and care for it.

Thinking PlantOkay, so that last one might be a little far-fetched from a plant’s point of view. But it is what makes a person want to grow flowers in their yard. The attraction was there thousands of years ago, and long before someone decided that selling ornamental plants and flower seeds was a good business idea. Like everything else in the circle of nature, this connection must have a deeper purpose than we understand today. Why are some flowers nondescript, while others are flamboyant, or delicately intoxicating? Why does being around flowers cause mood elevation and dispel illness? Plants shape and color their blooms for their own purposes. We just find the game plan (whatever that is) fascinating and beautiful, as well as something we need.

Why are butterflies attracted to some plants more than others? Why do hummingbirds seek red flowers first? And bees? They seem to like them all. It may not be the flying creatures who make the choice here. Plants know what they need. They have ways of finding it.

The Wild Tobacco plant can actually change it’s blooms’ shape, scent, sugar content, and open at opposite ends of the day – to attract the pollinator it seeks. Sometimes it wants a moth, and then it switches to hummingbirds. It does this in a single blooming over the span of 8 days. No one knows why or how it does this yet. It’s a recent discovery, but scientists are working on figuring it out.

For a plant to be able to do this is a sign of incredible intelligence. It’s like changing your mind about where to go this weekend, or getting your hair cut and colored. A behavior that certainly points to some form of thought, and some pretty manipulative behavior. A plant is capable of assessing what is needed and making it happen in a radical way.

The levels of plant intelligence go far beyond flowering, and begin with their seed. A huge part of what they are capable of is hidden from sight beneath the soil or imperceptible to the naked eye. It’s a vast, uncharted territory that is just now being discovered.

There’s more about that, and a lot of other amazing stuff in the documentary below.

While they don’t have brains, as JC Cahill says near the end of the video, there is something that allows cognitive process in plants. Just because it hasn’t been located yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or is impossible. Don’t forget, everyone was once convinced the world was flat, and that going to the moon was a fantasy. Just because plants don’t have a brain like other living things on the planet, doesn’t mean they can’t think, reason, feel, or communicate.

Thinking plant image courtesy of 3quarksdaily.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.