Do We Underestimate The Power Of Plants And Trees?


Research suggests plants might be capable of more than we suspect. Some scientists – controversially – describe plants as “intelligent”. They argue a better understanding of their capabilities could help us solve some of the world’s thorniest problems.

Professor Stefano Mancuso leads the International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence. “We are convinced that plants are cognitive and intelligent, so we use techniques and methods normally used to study cognitive animals.The main problem with plants is they move much more slowly than animals so we need to record plant movement for many days”.

Suzanne Simard is professor of forest ecology in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. “Every tree is linked to every other tree underground – the “wood wide web”. Through these pathways they talk to each other and then behave in certain ways.

We’ve completely underestimated plants.  We look at them as inanimate objects, completely unaware of the amazing, complex biology that allows plants to survive.We could see in the Venus flytrap its ability to close on a leaf  as intelligence, but that doesn’t help  understand plant biology at all.

Follow more on the BBC World Service on Tuesdays from 12:05 GMT.


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