Are Plants Smarter Than We Think?

June 10, 2008 02:40 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Sea rocket can tell which plants are related to it, and which are not, an example of emerging insight into the social capabilities of plants.

30-Second Summary

Sea rocket plants “get fiercely competitive when forced to share their pot with strangers of the same species, but they’re accommodating when potted with their siblings,” according to researchers at McMaster University who discovered the phenomenon in 2007.

Lead researcher Susan Dudley said, “the ability to recognize and favor kin is common in animals, but this is the first time it has been shown in plants.”

According to The New York Times, since Dudley’s research on sea rockets was published in 2007, she and colleagues “have found evidence that three other plant species can also recognize relatives.”

Scientists have been exploring the concept of plants as sensing organisms for decades, but discoveries still surprise some scientists, partly due to “an entrenched disbelief that plants, without benefit of eyes, ears, nose, mouth or brain, can and do” animal-like things, reports The New York Times. 

Plants have already been shown to be receptive to specific sound frequencies, for example.

Plant neurobiology is a relatively new field focused on the feasibility of plants having a system similar to the nervous system found in animals, but has drawn intense criticism from some scientists.

Headline Links: Sea rocket protects its kin

Related Links: Should you talk to your plants?

Reference: The lowdown on plants and gardening


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