The sixth sense of plants


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 Photo by Krishnendu Pramanick da Pixabay
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)

When plants learn to defend themselves: the story of acacia and antelope


We are in 1981 and kundu, a variety of antelope bred in South Africa, becomes “famous” all over the world for being one of the first animals to practice mass suicide.

In South Africa’s national parks, many specimens of this animal were found dead and on an empty stomach. Lifeless, they lay at the foot of the acacias where they usually went to feed on the leaves of this tree.

After various investigations, autopsies and tests on plants, an incredible conclusion was reached: the reason for the “suicide” of the antelopes was born primarily from the presence of man-made fences that excessively limited their range of action but also and above all from the fact that the acacias, if excessively preyed upon, made their leaves toxic and therefore indigestible for antelopes.
Not only.

The acacia, thanks to a particular “communication” system, was able to send an ethylene-based gaseous message that warned nearby plants thus making other plants poisonous and inedible to kundu which, limited by fences, had no way of escape if not that of choosing between death by intestinal blockade or starvation.

After the period of excessive predation, the acacia leaves became edible again.

But how did these conclusions come about?

The team of Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria, mistreated and studied a forest of acacias to understand the intensity and duration of the “defense mechanism” of this plant.
Here is what conclusions he came to:

“Acacia trees send an” alarm signal “to other trees when antelopes eat their leaves. Wouter Van Hoven says that antelope-gnawed acacias produce leaf tannin in lethal quantities and emit ethylene into the air. Ethylene warns other trees of the imminent danger, which increases their tannin production for just five or ten minutes. Van Hoven made his discovery when asked to investigate the sudden death of about 3000 South African antelopes, called kudus, on the Transvaal ranches He noticed that the giraffe, who wandered freely, only ate from one acacia tree out of ten, avoiding those trees that were downwind. The Kudu, which was fenced in the ranches, could only eat acacia leaves during the winter months. the antelope continued to eat until the tannin from the leaves triggered a lethal metabolic chain reaction in his body. “

A flower a day..keeps out the phsycologist of the way

There would not be need for us so many studies and researches above but, as now proven, gardening would do well to “mental health” of the people. The Dr. Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, even claims that the mere sight of a garden can be enough to improve the recovery time of an illness or psychological distress

One of the main points is still to be found in the fact that, having to take care of a garden or a flower to “follow”, already in itself constitute a purpose and hence a significant reason of life. An elderly will benefit in small movements needed to cure the plants and the flowers without that they do not create too many hardships on the move while the youngest will be able to understand the meaning of responsibility in the care of the plant or the entire green area.

 As a small pet, like a child, even the garden needs the care needed to survive and this keeps high attention and, above all, the sense of “belonging” to its own life and that of others. But let us not forget the times, those are really the masters of life, leaders to achieve inner serenity: the relationship with nature and the times of growth of a flower, a plant and their development, impose man waiting and the slow pace that has lost during this hectic and stressful life.

The result of nature, however, will be exciting, clear and satisfying! If we will help you free yourself from some minor discomfort, even better right?

Mark