Plants Can Tell Up From Down. Can We?

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called What A Plant Knows, by the scientist Daniel Chamovitz. It’s about how plants are smarter than most of us have thought – they have a remarkable abilities to detect and respond to aspects of their  environment. I’ll be writing a review soon.

But to give just one example right now: plants can tell up from down. A lot of us assume that they just grow toward the light, but they know the difference even in darkness. Here’s a time lapse video of two corn seeds, one pointing up and the other pointing down. The roots both find their way, even in the absence of light.

This video comes from the website Plants in Motion, sponsored by the University of Indiana. It’s worth checking out.

Watching tonight’s news makes me suspect that plants may be smarter than we are. It is inconceivable that tonight’s unleashing of military power was the result of some well-considered strategy to achieve peace or protect the innocent. This President has made it clear that he considers it a sign of weakness to be much concerned about civilian casualties in war.

So why the fireworks? Could it be an attempt to distract from certain recent legal developments? They say that MAGA these days stands for My Attorney Got Arrested. I would like to think that eventually this country will find our way towards a sensible direction, just as plants know to do.

Sorry for the politics. I couldn’t help myself.


31 Comments on “Plants Can Tell Up From Down. Can We?

  1. Also, bulbs that we don’t plant deep enough, use their roots to pull themselves down to the correct depth, very clever!

  2. And rhizomes that we plant too deep will grow themselves up. Plants are amazing creatures. We are living in frightening times.

  3. Our current situation is no longer politics, it is truly about up or down. May our species find the light again, and survive this poisonous thug infecting our world.

  4. That’s an interesting video. I bumped into a post somewhere about plants’ abilities to adapt to circumstances, and even to communicate with one another in the presence of threat. I’m wondering now if it might have been a review of Chamovitz’s book; it surely was contemplating some of the same realities.

    Reality has a lot going for it. It’s a shame certain of our politicians and bureaucrats don’t appreciate it.

    • There’s a number of books exploring this hidden side of plants. Another one I’ve read recently is called The Hidden Life of Trees. Excellent book.

  5. I’m often surprised at how seeds move around once planted… for the general world politics let’s hope we find some good leaders world wide one of these days.

  6. What a terrific analogy! With all that is happening, it is certainly understandable that you couldn’t resist.

  7. Life right now is rather like Alice down the rabbit hole. Nature finds a way. Let’s hope we humans can right ourselves soon.

  8. Of course. Plants know where gravity is. They also know where sunlight comes from. If you ever misplace your car keys, just ask.

  9. Even bulbs like tulips will right themselves if planted upside down, and acorns do it all the time.
    The beautiful thing about what’s happening right now is that it will finally show people how important voting really is. Stay home and this is what you’ll get.

  10. Plants are just amazing! Did you ever read Celia Thaxter’s “An Island Garden”? She relates several stories of plants who seemed to know what they were doing…like sending their roots all the way under a house to reach a well on the other side!

  11. I have a terrible sense of alienation from my own country that leaves me profoundly sad. This country is no longer the one I recognize as the one I grew up in.

  12. My thoughts exactly Jason. Plants were around before mankind, so they are probably a lot smarter!

  13. I’ve read some of The Hidden Life of Trees, and it is so amazing. There is so much we still don’t know about plants. They are much more complex and astonishing than we think. While I do still keep up with the news, I honestly had to start reading it less often this year just to cope, as it is so horrifying. So very, very sad.

  14. Seeds and bulbs are just fascinating, I have often been amazed at how bulbs planted the wrong way up still grow. The world is a scary place right now, there are far too many maniacs in power……much better to focus on the natural world, at least that’s

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