For long, we only consider trees as stationary living organisms that produce oxygen. But actually, plants are more than that. Even though we all know that plants are important for this planet and the longevity of its inhabitants, but not all of us know that plants should be appreciated more.
As an appreciation post to trees, in this article we are going to specifically show you how trees are not lesser kind of organisms compared to humans and animals. No, we are not going to talk about a well-known fact about trees that it can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen much.
Don’t you know that trees have ‘brains’ too? Don’t you know that trees have incredible communication ability too? Here, we are going to talk about specific features that trees have, while not many people are able to recognize it.
They Have Brain
Yes, you don’t read it wrong, neither we mistyped the information. Plants have ‘brains’, and researchers said that they have a lot of brains. Professor Stefano Mancuso from International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence has the base for the statement.
“Plants distribute all along the body the functions that in animals are concentrated in single organs. Whereas in animals almost the only cells producing electrical signals are in the brain, the plant is a kind of distributed brain in which almost every cell is able to produce them,” he said.
Simply said, every cell and every part of a plant is the brain of the organism. Each of them takes responsibility of their own action, and in this case, they are united to live as a single living organism which is the plant itself.
Plant is literally a small representation of our planet earth, with every single member of it is working toward one goal: to live in harmony. Not only its practical functions, we should also understand the philosophy of it.
But because not so many people know about this fact, most of them still underestimate plants. This is a dangerous underestimation, because we highly dependent on plants. “Because our life depends on plants and our actions are destroying their environments,” Mancuso said.
Cognitive and Intelligent
The brains they have make them pretty cognitive and intelligent organisms too. Mancuso in an experiment found that with their cognitive ability they can compete with other plants. He did it by making two climbing plants compete for a single resource placed between them.
During the experiment, he found that the plants were competing to reach the resource first. When one plant finally reached the resource and the other plant found out that it was losing, the plant that didn’t make it sensed it.
The other plant then tried to find an alternative to the resource competed. “This was astonishing and it demonstrates the plants were aware of their physical environment and the behavior of the other plant,” Mancuso stated.
Cognition means the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. And with this discovery, researchers finally believe that plants are actually cognitive organisms.
This discovery is a breakthrough for scientists, because with this we can finally say that plants are more than stationary organism that breathe oxygen out. “In animals we call this consciousness. We are convinced that plants are cognitive and intelligent,” Mancuso said.
So, they have brains, intelligent, and cognitive too. Then what’s more? Another study conducted in a greenhouse at the Cruickshank Botanic Garden at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland discovered this amazing truth.
Zdenka Babikova, a researcher at the facility, intentionally sprinkled aphids on eight broad bean plants and sealed each plant’s leaves and stems inside a clear plastic bag. Later, Babikova tried to put new plants and plants which had connections to previously invested plants in new place and did the same procedure.
Babikova found that plants which were never attacked by the aphids responded poorly, and the plants with mycorrhizal connections were doing fine. “When Zdenka first showed us those results it was quite a eureka moment,” says David Johnson, a soil ecologist at Aberdeen who co-led the research.
It means that in some ways, plants can transfer information. In this case, the information is to prevent the aphids to destroy them. “There was a really striking difference between the insects’ responses to plants with and without hyphal connections. We had more samples to test, but even at that point, it was pretty clear that this is an effective signaling system,” Johnson said.
Another evidence shows willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other. When nearby tree is infected by bugs, other plants somehow release bug-repelling chemicals to ward them off. It always happens this way, and thus it means that plants can send, receive, and interpret communicating signals from other plants.
Well, so we have talked about how ‘alive’ plants are. But there is one thing that we should not miss out when talking about their ability. Suzanne Simard, professor of forest ecology in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia said that plants might be sentient beings.
“We grew Douglas fir in a neighborhood of strangers and its own kin and found that they can recognize their own kin and we also grew Douglas fir and ponderosa pine together. We injured the Douglas fir by pulling its needles off, and by attacking it with western spruce bud worm, and it then sent a lot of carbon in its network into the neighboring ponderosa pine,” she explained.
“My interpretation was the Douglas fir knew it was dying and wanted to pass its legacy of carbon on to its neighbor, because that would be beneficial for the associated fungi and the community,” Simard continued. Amazing how a dying plant could send its dying message to its neighborhood because it means it could sense that death is coming closer.
It shows how plants can behave in certain ways similar to other sentient beings. It is like how humans usually pass its legacy and heritage to its relatives so that they can make use of it for better purposes after they die.
Trees are more than stationary living organisms exist to serve us. They are their own individuals with ability to ‘think’ and ‘sense’. It is possible that we are the ones who cannot understand their language, and perceive them in a wrong way. After reading this article, would you treat plants better?