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According to these scientists, this flower could be considered an intelligent being

© Kurt Stüber/Wikipedia

Defining intelligence is a complex issue. If it is accepted that many animals can demonstrate quite remarkable intelligence such as primates, bees, crows or dolphins, as for plants, the assertion is still rare. However, research carried out on a species of goldenrod, also called solidage (in this case, Solidago altissima), plant flower, very widespread in the USA, Canada and Mexico, have highlighted the fact that it could adopt intelligent behavior.

The study in question was published in the journal Plant Signaling and Behavior on April 17, and conducted by < strong>André Kessler, a chemical ecologist at Cornell University, and his doctoral student, Michael Mueller.

A new look at plant intelligence

The article and the position of its authors are quite controversial. Their advocacy is based on the postulate that these plants, when faced with problems, respond to their environment by resorting to a primitive form of memory and by demonstrating decision-making abilities. Indeed, the goldenrod would be able « to hear the cries& nbsp;» of its neighbors when they are attacked by herbivores.

When a goldenrod is attacked by beetle larvae, it secretes volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These actually constitute a signal addressed to insects, warning them that the plant has been damaged and that they should therefore turn to another food source.

Alongside this emission of chemical substances, the attacked plants modify the reflection of the red light emanating from their leaves, a signal easily detectable at a distance by other specimens of the same species. These signals, both chemical and light, play an alert role for other goldenrods located nearby, which react by strengthening their own defenses, by producing compounds with protective properties aimed at repel insects. A reaction completely corresponding to the functioning of an animal immune system.

Communication and defense: a sophisticated network

Kessler and Mueller defend the idea that this behavior transcends the simple reflex reaction. According to them, it is, in fact, a “thoughtful” behavioral change. Kessler specifies: “ They can sense their environment very precisely; every cell can do this, as far as we know so far“.

This ability to integrate environmental information and anticipate future conditions would demonstrate a form of intelligent behavior, despite the’ total absence of a central nervous system. The response of plants to volatile organic compounds is not a simple fixed reaction, but rather an adaptation based on information collected and analyzed from their environment.

In 2022, Kessler and his colleague Alexander Chautá had already proposed another study suggesting that attacked goldenrods do not emit the same light from their leaves when they are not surrounded by other flowers. For Kessler, this sign is clear: “Depending on the information it receives from the environment, the plant modifies its standard behavior ”.

The controversy surrounding plant intelligence

< p>The use of the term “intelligence” to describe the capabilities of plants remains an extremely controversial subject. For decades, this concept was widely rejected by the scientific community. However, the research carried out by Kessler and Mueller is part of a growing movement aimed at reconsidering the cognitive faculties of the plant kingdom.

This new perspective raises fundamental questions as to the modalities by which plants manage to perceive, learn and make decisions in the absence of a nervous system. Kessler and Mueller nuance these questions well: “ The question is not whether plants express intelligent behavior, but how they achieve this without a nervous system and what are the ecological consequences of these behaviors “.

Since the 1980s, it has been established that certain plants use volatile organic compounds to “communicate” among themselves about shared threats. Nevertheless, Much of this research has been conducted in the laboratory, and much remains to be discovered about how plants use these communication networks in their natural environments.

Some scientists remain skeptical about using such subjective terms as intelligence to describe these behaviors. However, regardless of definitions, more research is needed to explore the potential for perception, learning, decision-making, and memory among our planet's flora. This type of study is a real breath of fresh air to re-evaluate our understanding of how certain plants work and it can never be too much.

  • A study in April focused on a plant, a species of goldenrod, capable of communicating with its peers in the event of herbivore attacks.
  • A skill enabled by the emission of VOCs between different nearby plants from each other.
  • The question of plant intelligence still remains subject to controversy.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116