Gallery H
Our Living Universe
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Do Plants Think? Scientists Are Beginning To Believe It


By James Donahue


A few years ago we noticed a report in the Christian Science Monitor about research in “the evolving paradigm of plant intelligence.”


The story by Patrik Jonsson notes that some scientists believe plants are capable of carefully considering their environment, speculating on the future, conquering territory and enemies, “and are often capable of forethought – revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to philosophers.”


Jonsson added that the research has opened “a sprouting debate over the nature of intelligence itself.”


Examples of findings by the research included the discovery that the parasitic plant strangleweed “can sense the presence of friends, foes and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them.”


Also the ground-hugging mayapple “plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns.”


Plant geneticists are finding that plants can communicate with each other as well as with insects by coded gas exhalations. “They can perform Euclidean geometry calculations through cellular computations and, like a peeved boss, remember the tiniest transgression for months.”


These findings support a concept among aboriginals and esoteric thinkers that the Earth is a living sentient being. It is believed that everything on the planet is not only alive, but part of a vast universal information system.


If true, and science now seems to be supporting it, all plants including the grass, the flowers and the trees are sending information not only within their own ranks, but to the Mother Earth and out into the Universe.


I had my first realization of how plants respond to human involvement in their environment a few years back, when I was cutting firewood to heat our home. My father and I used to drive back into the wooded area of the family farm every Saturday to cut down a few trees, saw them into sections, and load them on the back of a pickup for delivery to the back yard.


Thinking of conservation even in those years, we used to seek out the fallen or diseased trees in the forest, or take older trees that were crowding out the smaller ones. I never dreamed that what we were doing was exciting the forest, however.


One day I read about an experiment by some Russian biologists with a few cabbage plants growing in a greenhouse type of environment.


A row of about six cabbage plants were attached to a sensitive instrument that measured various electronic waves transmitted by the living plants. The device worked somewhat like an electroencephalograph attached to the human brain.


During the experiment, a man entered the room each day at a certain time to water and add nourishment to the soil in each of the pots in which the cabbages were growing. The signals were recorded. There was a reaction to this activity each day.


One day a new person carrying an ax entered the room. This man walked up to one of the cabbage plants and chopped it to pieces. The response on the recorders was immediate. There was a wild increase in electronic activity. It was clear that the other cabbage plants not only were aware of this event but they expressed a strong response to what occurred.


From that time on, the mere entrance to the room by the man who had wielded the ax caused the same kind of electronic reaction among the surviving cabbage plants.


The conclusion among the scientists conducting the study is that the cabbage plants not only are aware of their surroundings, they communicate with one another, and respond to events that affect them. The identified the murderer of one of their own and responded violently whenever he was near.


After this, I found it difficult to enter the forest and cut down trees. I realized that the trees not only were communicating, but they may have feared my approach. Eventually we sold that home and moved into a smaller place that had a gas fired furnace.