Are plants intelligent?

We human beings can communicate via language, non verbal language, we can express emotions and thoughts. To some, it is difficult to even acknowledge that animals have a consciousness, and intelligence on their own, even though recent studies about the social behavior of wolves and certain apes has certainly acknowledged their very complex behavior. When I talk about Animism, I am talking about an ancient form or spirituality that has acknowledged an inner soul, consciousness or intelligence within nature as a whole. But how can I find out, if nature is indeed “alive”, and what else in nature has an intelligent, living Aspect, apart from humans and animals? And what about plants and trees?

Are they alive, are they intelligent? They can’t really move, don’t have legs, not a brain. So, there’s people out there that assume they’re dead. not alive. What does modern science say about that, about the intelligence within trees and plants? It’s a truth that no one can deny that recent, modern forestry has viewed trees as a natural ressource that should be fast paced in growth and easy to harvest in order to make a profit. But nature, it seems, is a very complex system within systems that are all dependent on each other. Plants, and certainly trees, too, react and respond to their environment. They need water, light, minerals. But they also can defend themselves. Some plants have thorns for a reason. But there’s other means of them protecting themselves. They can communicate via scents. If a tree is under attack by insects, the tree will respond with a scent that will attack certain predatory insects, for example. And it is done via biochemical cents. That way, it can warn all the other trees as well. That plants and trees communicate via biochemical scents was known and proven around 20 years ago.

When a tomato plant, or the tobacco plant, is under attack, it will produce toxins. Nicotine is such a toxin. Nicotine can and will kill certain insects and animals. And there’s other ways of communication, too. Trees can communicate deep down in the soil via roots and fungi through electrical impulses. It’s been proven that trees can adjust to a certain environment, learn from it and somehow remember what they have experienced in the past. How this is done, no one yet knows. The University of Bonn suggests that this might be accomplished by the roots, that somehow function as a network of nerves. They can solve their own issues, respond to their environment, protect themselves, warn other trees and from relationships to other trees and fungi. This is where it gets very complex.
Fungi are very important to the soil of a forest and very beneficial as well. They are masters of transformation, recycling, filtering and digesting dead organic matter. The fungi called Mychorriza forms a bond with trees in order to receive a sugary substance from the trees, while the trees in return get minerals and water. Sounds like a good deal?
They’re dependent on each other. Fungi break down matter, recycle and return beneficial minerals back into the soil. And their fungal mycelia, that spreads out deep down underground, connects with the roots of other trees. They are constantly exchanging biochemical and electrical impulses. It’s a deep relationship going on deep in the forests, and yes, plants and trees do communicate but not via language as we do. They have their own, very unique ways of doing so. And it is very complex, way more complex that what we would have imagined.
There certainly is some type of awareness and intelligence going on. If plants would be dead, they wouldn’t adjust, learn, protect, defend, and exchange with other trees and fungi.

University of Bonn
Max Planck Institute


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