Plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world. They are capable of solving problems and learning from past experiences.
Plants face many of the same problems as animals, though they differ significantly in their approach. Plants have to find energy, reproduce and stave off predators.
To do many things plants have developed smarts and sentience. To solve their energy needs, most plants turn to the sun – in some cases literally. Plants are able to grow through shady areas to locate light and many even turn their leaves during the day to capture the best light.
Some plants have taken a different route, however, supplying themselves with energy by preying on animals, including everything from insects to mice to even birds. The Venus flytrap may be the most famous of these, but there are at least 600 species of animal-eating flora.
In order to do this, these plants have evolved complex lures and rapid reactions to catch, hold and devour animal prey.
Plants also harness animals in order to reproduce. Many plant use complex trickery or provide snacks and advertisements (colours) to lure in pollinators, communicating either through direct deception or rewards.
New research finds that some plants even distinguish between different pollinators and only germinate their pollen for the best.
Finally, plants have evolved an incredible variety of toxic compounds to ward off predators. When attacked by an insect, many plants release a specific chemical compound.
But they don’t just throw out compounds, but often release the precious chemical only in the leaf that’s under attack. Plants are both tricky and thrifty.
The bottom of the plant may be the most sophisticated of all though. Scientists have observed that roots do not flounder randomly but search for the best position to take in water, avoid competition and garner chemicals.
In some cases, roots will alter course before they hit an obstacle, showing that plants are capable of “seeing” an obstacle through their many senses.
Humans have five basic senses. But scientists have discovered that plants have at least 20 different senses used to monitor complex conditions in their environment.