Plants have always been portrayed as inanimate being for us. Plants are thought not to have feelings or intelligence to function or feel as they do not have brains, which generate all sorts of intelligence and emotions or reflexes.
But if that is the case, how do plants survive independently even in the most challenging situations?
While ancient studies tell us that a living being requires a well-formed brain to possess feelings or intelligence, recent studies say otherwise.
So, are plants sentient? There is still an ongoing debate on that, but plants show the signs of being sentient in many different ways. Let’s learn more about it.
What Does It Mean for a Plant To be Sentient?
For a plant, being sentient means to be capable of having feelings or a level of awareness of the surroundings and to have some cognitive abilities as well. Since ancient times, we have had this misconception regarding the ability to have feelings with the ability to respond.
It is not necessary to respond; you can also react to show how you feel. This is what exactly the plants do. They react to their surroundings, but they don’t respond actively to them.
Another way of being sentient is having a certain level of intelligence. The research used to claim that plants do not have the intelligence which is required to be proven as sentient.
But if such is true, plants would not have been able to sustain themselves. Plants make their own food with the help of photosynthesis and its organelles; they control the atmosphere accordingly and also store food for future needs. It not only keeps surviving itself but also helps us survive.
Evidence That Plants Are Sentient
There is plenty of evidence that proves plants are sentient as well. Sometimes they are considered even more sentient than a few animals. Following are the characteristics or nature of plants which make them sentient.
Maintaining Order of Response
One of the characteristics of being sentient is being able to prioritize the order in which one should respond. In recent studies, it has been figured out that plants do maintain the order of response, and that too with prioritization.
Despite the fact that plants do not now possess a mental state to prioritize their needs, they still employ coordinated physiological activity groups to respond to specific environmental conditions.
In this whole process, phloem plays the main role of working as a channel for the plants to establish electrical communication.
Activities Like A Nervous System
Plants were initially the subject of not being sentient because they lack in having a nervous system, which is the main thing that makes an animal sentient.
It was established that without a brain or a nervous system, a living being cannot be sentient. But recent studies have shown that plants do project features like the neurons of a nervous system present in animals.
Plants project a lot of action potentials and electrical transmissions, which are quite similar to the neurons present in the animal nervous system. Here phloem acts as a phytoneurone that can transmit impulses, and reflexes are noticed in plants.
Visible Action Potentials
If you ever observe a plant, you would always notice that the leaves are always directed in the direction of sunlight.
As they make their food through the process of photosynthesis from sunlight, it needs to position themselves towards the sun. This is a similar kind of action potential of the leaf blades of a plant, acting like a motor nerve found in animals.
Another interesting action potential shown by the plants is aiding or protecting themselves from different insects.
When insects harm the plants, just like our motor nerves, the glutamate receptors of the plants transmit it to different parts of the plants, and they aid themselves in different ways like increasing the circulation of salicylate or emitting ethylene.
Does it Affect our Relation with the Plants?
It does not affect the relationship of plants with us. Rather, it would be a good way to start prioritizing their immense importance in our lives.
It is yet to be confirmed if plants react or respond actively to our behavior towards them or not, but they definitely react to our presence.
So we should be aware of acknowledging their conscience more than we do now.
One thing for sure is that they are not inanimate, and we are dependent on them for our survival. So, we should increase our care, affection, and gratitude towards them as we do to other animals or pets we have around us. The notion of ‘Plant Blindness’ should be removed from society.
Even if not sentient, plants do help us a lot. Ignoring their presence and not taking measures to take care of them would not only affect their lives but ours as well.
Animals and plants are inter-connected and interdependent. The more we give to the plants, the more we will receive.
Although it is yet to be firmly established whether plants are sentient or not, the ignorance shown towards the plants should be taken care of.
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