Vegans will have a problem. Plants are as intelligent as animals, but the processes determining this are so incredibly complex that we are still unable to realize that they are thinking creatures.
The latest research provides further evidence to support these words. Plants are not only able to recognize their relatives and warn each other of impending danger, but they also make decisions, have memory for events and communicate with each other constantly. They don’t have a brain like us mammals, but in their world they are not inferior to us in their ability to survive. And that, after all, is what matters most.
Umberto Castiello, a scientist at the University of Padua and member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, has conducted many experiments involving a wide variety of plants. The goal was to see if they exhibit basic abilities similar to those we see every day in animals or humans. It turns out that they are visible to the naked eye.
The scientist gave the example of the flycatcher, a monotypic genus of plants in the sundew family. They have leaves that have been transformed into traps. They attract prey with their sweet nectar and red coloration. Once the prey is inside the leaf, sensory lamellae detect it and the leaves close, creating an insurmountable trap for the prey. Interestingly, the flycatcher is able to estimate the size of the prey, but also the number of steps taken by it once it is in the trap.
Castiello also gave another example of knowledge gained from his experiments. For example, the shy mimosa remembers its fall from a height and is later able to change its response to similar events. The scientist has dropped the plant many times from a table. With each successive fall, its defensive reaction diminished. The plant stopped decomposing its leaves, understood that the fall did not harm it and was not a threat to it, so it eventually stopped reacting to it. This effect lasted for a month, which means that the flytrap also has a center responsible for memory.
The plants are also great at recognizing their relatives, respond quickly to water and nutrient deficiencies, and can team up to ward off predators. Scientists believe that plants are networked together in what may look like a neural network in our brains. Although their processes appear to be much simplified and slower compared to ours, they are perfectly adequate in their environment. So this cannot be an argument that proves their lesser “intelligence”.
Many researchers believe that it is wrong to describe plants as stupid and much less complex than animals. In fact, they are no different from them, we just haven’t realized it yet. Scientists hope the situation will change as we learn more and more about the floral world.