The Emotional Lives of Plants

In our hyperactive, anthropocentric world, it’s easy to forget that plants are more than inanimate objects. Dr. Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows?, is striving to remind us that plants are not only alive, but are in fact complex, sensual organisms. Plants have the capabilities to not only experience at least three of the senses humans experience, but can also remember, something we usually characterize as exclusive to humans, or at the very least, animals.

Dr. Chamovitz explains that there have been several studies that prove that plants can smell, in a way. Dodder, a plant that can’t actually photosynthesize on its own and so must rely on other plants for food, has demonstrated time and again a preference for tomato over wheat plants for no other reason than it seems to prefer its smell/taste.

As for memory, plants certainly have a storage system for information. They have the capacity to collect data, retain it, and, in cases, call up that information to react in a beneficial way. Venus Fly Traps, for example, will only close after at least two of their hairs are touched. Therefore, they need to gather the information that the first hair has been touched, retain it, and then use it after a second hair has been touched to catch their prey.

Perhaps the most compelling data that plants are more sophisticated creatures than we give them credit for, is their ability to communicate. In a recent study, one tree was put into drought-like conditions and managed to warn other trees of the same species to prepare for a lack of water. The deduction was that this communication must have taken place through their roots, as the control group of potted trees was unable to send and receive this message.

Dr. Chamovitz notes that in light of this information, there should be a shift in the way we think about plants. “The fact that many people substitute artificial […] Christmas trees for live ones is exemplary at some level of how we related to plants. You know, I don’t know anyone who keeps a stuffed dog in place of a real one,” he writes. If you would like to liven up your business, call Foliage Design Systems of the Carolinas.