Research suggests that at least one type of plant – the french bean – may be more sentient than we give it credit for: namely, it may possess intent.
The issue of whether or not plants choose their actions and possess feelings or even consciousness is a thorny one for many botanists, with the more traditional-minded strongly disputing any notion of sentient vegetation. Although plants clearly sense and react to their environments, this doesn’t mean they possess complex mental faculties, they argue.
Others, like Paco Calvo at the University of Murcia’s minimal intelligence lab in Spain, are more open-minded. Intrigued by the ability of climbing beans to sense structures such as garden canes and grow up them, he devised an experiment to investigate whether they deliberately aim for the cane, or simply bump into such structures as they grow, and then turn them to their advantage. “The question is, are they showing goal-directed behaviours consistent with anticipation and fine-scaled tweaking of their movements, as they approach?” Calvo said.
Together with Vicente Raja at the Rotman Institute of Philosophy in London, Canada, they used time-lapse photography to document the behaviour of 20 potted bean plants, grown either in the vicinity of a support pole or without one, until the tip of the shoot made contact with the pole. Using this footage, they analysed the dynamics of the shoots’ growth, finding that their approach was more controlled and predictable when a pole was present. The difference was analogous to sending a blindfolded person into a room containing an obstacle, and either telling them about it or letting them stumble into it.
“We see these signatures of complex behaviour, the one and only difference being is that it’s not neural-based, as it is in humans,” Calvo said. “This isn’t just adaptive behaviour, it’s anticipatory, goal-directed, flexible behaviour.”
Read More at The Guardian
Read the rest at The Guardian