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The sixth sense of plants

Photo by Gerd Altmann da Pixabay

Contrary to how they lived there to think, plants do not just vegetate while remaining motionless in their position without doing anything, to, like us, they have developed senses that allow them to live, become or feed themselves even though they cannot go hunting or the expense of getting food, for example.
Plants can communicate even without gestures or without a voice, they can feed themselves without having a mouth and teeth and can "listen" even if they have no ears.

But how do plants do all this if, apparently, they present themselves as vegetable and inanimate beings?
In reality, the plants were somehow forced to evolve in order to survive and better adapt to the constantly changing environment.

 

1. Take for example the SIGHT.

If a plant is devoid of eyes and obviously unable to distinguish shapes and colors as man does, it is equally true that to grow a plant feeds mainly on a natural element essential to its life: light. From it the plants generate the process of photosynthesis which means source of food.
Plants perceive their quality and quantity and, therefore, they tend to grow in a direction and position such that they can absorb them in the best quantity in order to grow well.
Anyone among us can observe how a plant, both indoors and outdoors, tends to "lean" towards the light or the sun, growing even faster, to avoid finding itself in the shade or in the dark.
In the absence of light, the plant will hardly survive.

 

2. THE SMELL.

We must not imagine a plant like man thinking about the nose and the nervous signals that are sent to the brain.
A plant is made up of billions of cells and can perceive from every part of its "body" the various information that comes to it from the external environment. With them he learns to communicate through molecules, called BVOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds of Biogenic Origin) through which he learns to communicate with insects and other plants for example.
Every smell and perfume produced by a plant or flower, in practice, contains a precise message and serves a purpose, even if the mysterious and infinite code of the plants is still far from being completely deciphered.

 

3. THE TASTE

Plants undoubtedly have a fine and rather demanding "palate". Through their roots that explore the soil they go on a continuous search for nutrients that can satiate them and make them beautiful and strong.
Each root starts looking for new elements such as nitrates, potassium or phosphates, thus creating what then becomes a dense exploratory network that forms under the tree or plant.
If you happen to decant from time to time to decant some plants, you will discover very long roots that, even in the presence of not too large pots, go in search of nourishment to satisfy their demanding palate and hunger.

Without forgetting the infinity of carnivorous (or better insectivorous) plants that live on our planet, which feed on insects by exploiting traps with which they are equipped.
The Nephentes is even a species capable of capturing small animals or reptiles such as mice and lizards thanks to the particular shape, then digesting them through a digestive liquid present in their "trap".

 

4. THE TOUCH

Trying to explain this topic may seem really complex because it is not easy to really prove whether a plant can have receptors capable of perceiving other objects or living beings.

However there are plants such as Mimosa pudica (photo below), which react to contact with humans for example. The leaf of Mimosa pudica closed de touched and reopens when it no longer feels the "danger", but it does not close in case of rain. This could be a first proof that plants (at least some) have some kind of tactile perception.

Mimosa Pudica or sensitiva
Mimosa Pudica or sensitiva

Another example of a plant that reacts to touch is that of carnivorous plants that trigger their trap when an insect leans on it.
What other sense if not touch, could they use to perceive the presence of a prey inside the trap and capture their prey?

Last but perhaps most evident example of the tactile capacity of plants is that of climbing plants or vines for example. During their growth path it can be seen how they tend to wrap around other objects by using them to climb or support themselves during the development path.
How can plants perceive the presence of an external object and exploit it at their convenience if not with a sense similar to our touch?

 

5. HEARING.

As with the other 4 senses, plants are also very different from humans. They clearly do not have ears and do not have nervous systems that transmit data to the brain.
Despite this, the plants have an "auditory system" very similar to that of some reptiles such as the snake or other animals which, although without ears, exploit the vibrations of the ground to perceive vibrations or sounds.
This allows plants, for example, to "hear" the music or at least the frequencies that come from it.
Some studies in this regard were made by a winemaker from Montalcino who for some years collaborated with the LINV (International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology) and with Bose (a leading company in the field of sound technology) who financed the research, trying to make his vines listen to music. The results turned out to be incredible because the plants subjected to the treatment grew better and faster and, even the grapes had a better taste than that of the untreated plants.


6. Plants are not limited only to these 5 senses, but have unique and enviable "senses" and abilities that man or animans cannot match. Plants, for example, through the roots, are able to identify sources of humidity from which they can then "hydrate" and can, again through the roots or leaves, absorb carcinogenic substances for humans and transform them into other elements.
We think only of the TCE, so I know for humans, that plants can absorb and transform into gaseous chlorine, carbon dioxide and water.
Or more simply to "purifying" plants, capable of absorbing CO2 from the environment and transforming it into oxygen.

Finally, let us not forget the unique ability of plants to reproduce and regenerate. If a tree is cut or pruned it is able to regrow vigorously or, for example, if we take a small branch and replant it in a pot (reproduction by cutting), we can grow this plant in another environment!
What other beings in the world are capable of this?

 

Source: Mancuso, Stefano. Verde brillante (Saggi Giunti) (Italian Edition)

 

 

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