Do Plants Think?
Some Scientists Say They Can
Botanical Discoveries Challenge
Our Notions of Intelligence
by Majenta Stuntebeck, age 14
While people generally understand that some animals are intelligent—defining intelligence as possessing “the capacity to solve problems”—it is not generally known that plants are as well. In 1880, Charles Darwin wrote The Power of Movement in Plants, in which he discussed how plants demonstrate intelligence through movement. Until recently, the book was largely ignored and the idea of plant intelligence dismissed. However Stefano Mancuso, and Italian botanist and professor at the University of Florence, recently set out to show that plants should be seen as more than food for wildlife or decoration.
In 2005, Mancuso established the Society for Plant Neurobiology with a group of international scientists. Critics argued that because plants don’t have brains or neurons, “plant neurobiology” is inaccurate. At a TED talk in 2010, Mancuso explained why he believes the name is valid. While plants may not have neurons, they possess electrical signals known as action potentials, which are similar to those found in human neurons. These action potentials are located in a plant’s root tips, a place logical for plants since they are widely spread rather than in a centralized brain. Plants’ sessile (rooted) nature prevents them from being able to run away or hide from predators that could easily bite or claw off a centralized brain. [Read More]