The secret life of plants

Food writer Michael Pollan says that when you look at time-lapse photography of plants as they grow so that you can see them move as they grow, it looks eerily like they are acting with a sense of volition, although of course they do not have a central nervous system.

Here he provides a commentary on a couple of bean plants and describes in anthropomorphic terms their ‘actions’ and ‘moods’.


  1. Trickster Goddess says

    I wonder how the plant detects where the pole is? With the single plant video it is definitely reaching out in one direction and not just doing a general sweep for the nearest object. Also the lighting source is static (from “behind” relative to the pole) so it can’t impute the location by a passing shadow.


  2. StevoR says

    There’s so much more to learn and that’ I’d like to see with this sort of experimental footage too.

    I’d love to see the second losing plants reaction to being saved by having a pole added for it and what would happen if someone shifted the pole or put both plants on it? Be interesting to see what the roots were doing simultaneously too. (One for a hydroponics set up?) Plus see an equivalent outside of lab conditions with a range of species.

    I presume these are both plants of the same species ad even variety maybe from the same batch of seed. Would it different if they weren’t? If say we repeat or do similar with competitor plants -- e.g. a native and a weed species or try companion planting species choices to see if and how they help each other?

    Oh & plants make sounds too as this :

    Science news article proves. Well kinda anyhow.

  3. StevoR says

    Also, whilst I gather its a purely physical mechanical process, this time lapse clip :

    of an Erodium cicutarium (Common Storks Bill / Puinweed /Filaree*) seed burrowing its way into the ground is pretty neat too.

    As is this one of a pea plant germinating and starting to grow -- and surviving and responding to fluctatuating water levels -- shows they too are pretty marvellous too :

    (I gather peas aren’t too popular among the Pharyngula crowd but, hey, they can be pretty remarkable lifeforms as well. Of course, I’m not on Pharygnula to be able to defend them there either, sadly. Plants are wonderful, people, sometimes not-so much.)

    * See :

    For the wikibasics. Apparently an edible plant and Zuni stomachache “bush medicine” cure. Despite paradoxically them being an introduced weed there if I grok that right

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