The Secret (Social) Life of Plants

Lynne McTaggart

The Secret Life of PlantsScientists are stunned about new evidence that plants can distinguish between plants related to it and those that are not. Besides actually recognizing its relatives, the plant gives them preferential treatment.
A study carried out by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, (Biology Letters 2007; 3: 435-8), examined how the Great Lakes sea rocket (Cakile eduntula) reacted with plants of the same species when sharing a pot.
The plants competed with strangers for soil nutrients, but not withkin.  In the presence of strangers, the sea rocket plants aggressively sprouted roots to soak up all available nutrients.  However, with family, the plant restrained itself and settled for more modest root growth.
The Canadian researchers believe that root interactions may provide the key for kin recognition among plants.  Plants work out who is family and who isn’t by checking out each other’s roots.

Constant communication
But in my view, the larger implication is that that plants have a primary awareness of their environment and — in common with every other living creature — are constantly communicating with it.
Or as Susan A. Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist, who led the study, puts it: “Plants have a secret social life.”
This is not the first evidence of what Cleve Backster has termed ‘primary perception’. For some 20 years scientists have discovered that plants sense the presence of competing plants through subtle changes in light (certain plants have ‘signature shifts’), or by the release of another plant’s chemicals.  The dodder plant, a parasitic weed, actually very deliberately sprouts toward its potential host plants, making intelligent choices about which plant would enable it to survive the longest.
Backster himself discovered a ‘plant learning curve’ when the famous remote viewer Ingo Swann had come to visit him at his lab in October 1971. Swann wanted to repeat Backster’s initial experiment with his Dracaena, in which the plant reacted, as shown on polygraph equipment, to Backster’s thought of burning one of its leaves.  With Swann’s study, the plant’s polygraph began to spike when Swann imagined burning the plant with a match. He tried it again, and the plant reacted wildly, then stopped.
‘Do you think,’ Swann then said to Backster, ‘that it has learned that I’m not serious about really burning its leaf? So that it now knows it need not be alarmed?’
Swann thought of putting acid in the plant’s pot. The needle on the polygraph again began to zigzag wildly. Eventually, the plant appeared to understand that Swann was not serious. The polygraph tracing flat-lined. Swann was shocked at the thought that plants could learn to differentiate between true and artificial human intent.
Backster’s work, combined with the latest evidence, raise the possibility that plants are have a seething and sensory inner life, with abilities common to animals: sensing, learning, memory, and in the case of the sea rocket, the ability to distinguish friend from foe.
Indeed, some 20 international scientists have created the Society for Plant Neurobiology, and although they do not suggest that a little brain is lurking somewhere inside a plant, they do acknowledge that plants have internal electrical signaling  — much like a primitive brain.
Many people choose vegetarianism because they feel that it is cruel to kill and eat sentient beings.  What if plants are sentient too?
Try the McMaster experiment at home:
Take two seedlings from the same family and plant them in the same pot.  See if they thrive.  Now take two seedlings from different plants and again plant them in the same pot.  See which grows higher.
Or, watch the plants in positive or negative environments.  See which grow higher.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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11 comments on “The Secret (Social) Life of Plants”

  1. One can do therapeutic touch on plants as well as people, why not therapeutic thinking?

  2. I am always rather suspicious when someone comes up with an example of the Darwinian model. Could the knowledge and the beliefs of a scientist who works from this conceptual framework of reality affect the outcomes of such experiments? Are there plants that cooperate? I would say that there are. To think also that the spoken word is the only and most superior form of communication, can only come from the ego. Lyall Watson in his book Super Nature spoke about trees communicating over a distance and warning each other of an approaching animal back in the seventies. So I am surprised that scientist are still surprised to find that everything has a form of conciousness! :o) Although on a positive note its good to hear about more break through's in this field. I am very interested in symbioses, so perhaps someone can post something about 'truly' social plants, the ones that get on and share with their neighbours? Wow plants working together amongst species, now that would make a positive headline!

  3. I must admit, this finding is very fascinating, but I am curious, how does this fit in with psychokinesis research or the concept that we influence the world with our thoughts? This seems to indicate that plants of a similar species communicate via chemical means to interact, simply indicating that they are more aware than we gave them credit for. If someone could point out the connection for me, I would very much appreciate it. Thanks.
    The Practitioner.

  4. I am not surprised. Plants are amazing. I know my plants, respond to my love...
    I left my bonzai with a friend whilst on holidays. My friend came around to my place to look after it. She talked him too but, she told me she said to it that she wasnt good at looking after plants but would do her best. When I came back from holidays to my dismay my little tree had lost all its leaves... and looked very sad indeed.. Kerry had looked after it as well as I did, but somehow it just didnt like her!... As soon as I got home I tended to my little tree and spoke soothingly to it. 2 days later all the leaves were replaced and he is as good as new... but it gave me communication as not to leave him with Kerry ever again. I communicate with my plants and they grow abundantly. We are connected consciously. We are all energy and we are all connected even to the smallest grain of sand.
    Karyn Sivyer

  5. This to me this is not new knowledge at all and not surprising either! In organic farming we use something called companion planting and I imagine that if we had this method tested, the results would be exactly that..plants looking after each other! So much for vegetarianism, we just have to become very concious beings and bless the food we eat wheter it be plants or animals... kind of like the Atlanteans and other ancient civilisations did 12'000 years ago.
    Love your work Lynn...brings the unseen to full light!
    Maria Pache

  6. To Maria Pache: Take you child to a garden. Now take them to a slaughterhouse. Which place blesses you?
    To Dina Shira Levine - Beans, grains and seed are full baby plants - that's why it's healthest and less cruel to eat fruits and vegetables.

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