Intelligent Design News Plants

Tree of intelligence now matchsticks?: Plants communicate?

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Further to “The intelligence of the chicken “startles”? (with the suggestion that a chicken bred to be not-meat is likely to be smarter than a chicken bred to be meat), it turns out that plants can communicate in some ways as well.

From The Scientist:

Researchers are unearthing evidence that, far from being unresponsive and uncommunicative organisms, plants engage in regular conversation. In addition to warning neighbors of herbivore attacks, they alert each other to threatening pathogens and impending droughts, and even recognize kin, continually adapting to the information they receive from plants growing around them. Moreover, plants can “talk” in several different ways: via airborne chemicals, soluble compounds exchanged by roots and networks of threadlike fungi, and perhaps even ultrasonic sounds. Plants, it seems, have a social life that scientists are just beginning to understand.

That maple trees communicate was known for decades, but the teachings of the prophet Darwin got in the way:

In 1983, plant scientists Jack Schultz and Ian Baldwin reported that intact maple tree saplings ramped up their defense systems when exposed to herbivore-damaged maples. The injured trees, they suggested, were alerting neighbors to the presence of a predator by releasing chemical signals into the air. But the plant research community didn’t buy it. The results were difficult to replicate, critics pointed out, and many questioned how a trait that benefits neighboring plants but not the emitter could be evolutionarily stable. By the late 1980s, “most ecologists felt these ideas had been debunked and that it was time to move on,” says Karban.

Research persisted, despite the fact that “researchers who doubt that plants would have evolved to be altruistic have ruminated on the old question of the evolutionary origins of the phenomenon” (= Darwin’s followers wasted everyone’s time) and “the evolutionary explanation for volatile communication among plants remains open to debate” (= if Darwin’s followers aren’t happy, science stops). So:

“Individual compounds are the words,” says Jarmo Holopainen, an ecologist at the University of Eastern Finland, “and these words are combined to make specific sentences.” Unfortunately, he adds, researchers know little about what these volatile signals mean to a plant and how they are perceived. “We’ve made very little progress in deciphering this chemical code.” More.

It will be difficult, unfortunately, to openly make progress, one suspects, until some flimflam is thunk up to explain how it all evolved in the manner specified by Darwin’s followers. That might take a while, since it obviously didn’t happen that way. In fact, in this vid on forest ecology, the researcher says something most interesting about the orthodox Darwinian view:

5 Replies to “Tree of intelligence now matchsticks?: Plants communicate?

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    An ecosystem is an interdependent communal organism. I liked the network concept that Dr. Simard described, an “internet” of roots. I bet that even the birds tweet each other! 😉


  2. 2

    JRR Tolkien had a quite a bit to say about the communication of trees. It featured in at least 3 chapters of his trilogy. And he wrote that down in 1940 or so.

  3. 3
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    Thanks for a very interesting post on plants. I briefly addressed the issue of how plant cooperation evolved (and mentioned Dr. Simard’s research) towards the end of my recent post, “Are plants intelligent, and what can we learn from them?” at .

    Let me play devil’s advocate here for a moment. I don’t think plant cooperation poses a fatal problem for Darwinism: all you need to do is redefine what you mean by an individual organism. Darwin himself stated in his work, The Power of Movement in Plants (see here:;pageseq=1 ) (London: John Murray, 1880): “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of the radicle … having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense organs and directing the several movements.” That sounds very similar to Dr. Simard’s proposal. Unlike Simard, Darwin wasn’t aware of how trees are connected with one another underneath the surface. But if he had been aware of that, he might have argued that insofar as they swap nutrients with one another, they could all be viewed as one giant organism – in which case, the competition metaphor wouldn’t apply. But by the same token, it would no longer be a mystery that plants evolved to help one another: it’s really the forest superorganism that’s evolving new ways to help itself. At least, I imagine that’s what Richard Dawkins would say. What do you think?

  4. 4
    News says:

    On can certainly view trees of different species as one giant organism if one likes, but then it would be better to consider the ecosystem the basis of an organization of life, not the species. Then what becomes of Dawkins’s selfish gene?

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Nice article News,,,

    Besides altruistic behavior between plants being contrary to Darwinian thought, I’ve always found that the whole ‘top down’ symbiotic relationship between plants and animals, where they supply us oxygen and we supply them carbon dioxide, is contrary to Darwinian thought:

    God’s Creation – Symbiotic Cooperative Relationships – video


    Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species
    Excerpt: across a scale of 400,000?km2, we report,,, biomass production was approximately 50% greater with five than with one tree species. In addition, we show positive relationships between tree species richness and proxies for other biodiversity components. Importantly, no single tree species was able to promote all services, and some services were negatively correlated to each other. Management of production forests will therefore benefit from considering multiple tree species to sustain the full range of benefits that the society obtains from forests.

    Plant Growth and Evolution – Clueless – Cornelius Hunter – February 2012
    Excerpt: plants only grow in the right direction by the coordinated activity of different cell and tissue types. If one part doesn’t work, the whole thing doesn’t work. And for evolutionists, that means that each part had to evolve for some other reason and then just luckily they all worked together. It’s yet another evolutionary just-so story that isn’t motivated by the evidence, but by belief in the theory.

    Redwoods – Towering Giants Of Teleological Beauty – October 2010

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