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Category: Plant Gestures

Do plants gesture?

Plants gesture: You may profit if you boil me

Once more let us dream a while
Once more let us consider plant gestures

I wrote previously about the intentions of moving plants, and about their ability to communicate. Do plants gesture? I remain unconvinced. Sure, they move for various practical reasons but not to communicate.

They do appear to provide information to their environment in response to events through chemical signals. When under attack from a bug, they send up smoke signals calling in allied killer bugs. However, this signaling appears limited to a single message, it is not a semiotic system. There may also be no killer bugs to pick it up. It is also not under cognitive control. Yet I can see how it is useful to call it communication. But not through movement or appearance. And I do not call my own chemical signals from my armpits gesture either. So, no gesture sofar.

A seductive gesture? (News in Science)

But the internet is a jungle rife with diversity, and I stumbled upon another case for your consideration: A review of a book on Bach Flower Remedies. The basic idea concerns the healing power of flowers, or their essences. But they also mention the soul gestures of plants (which need to be studied in relation to their essence qualities).

If I understand correctly: The way the flower grows and lives has its analogy in human development. And so the “beautiful Water Violet, which floats so freely on the surface of our clearest streams, will help you…to stand absolutely alone in the world, gaining the intense joy of complete freedom” (source). One could argue that the Water Violet communicates its specific flower-power through the way it grows and lives. Growing and living can be considered movement. Ergo, the plant gestures.

Why would this Water Violet share its secret and tell us what it will do for us if we boil it into an essence?

However, if we complete the analogy, then what do we communicate with the way we grow as a species? We grow from crying babies in cots to screaming toddlers, unruly kids, troublesome teenagers on to neurotic adults. What would be the quality of our essence? Will our perfume help other organisms, like their essence may help us?

There appears to be a problem with the analogy. All of nature revolves around humans, and not vice versa. If we but listen carefully each plant has its own message for us. We are challenged: “to open our eyes to the wonder of the natural world as a living script, a soul-imbued life that can speak intimately to the human soul”. Any takers?

‘Shy’ Killer Plants are Spreading Fast

There are several forms of rapid plant movement which could be seen as intentional actions. (Let us leave aside their turning towards the sun and other tropism, taxis or kinesis, but temporarily grant them intentions). Why do these plants act? Sometimes to capture prey, like in the movie below. Sometimes to release seeds or pollen. The reasons for these movements are fairly obvious. To eat and reproduce. I think of these as practical actions, not gestures, since there is no intention to communicate.

Other plants seem to shy away or curl up their leaves in response to touch or other stimuli.

Dr. T. Ombrello – UCC Biology Department: “We can only guess as to why Mimosa pudica and a few other species have evolved to exhibit nyctinastic and seismonastic movements. It has been observed that folded and drooped leaves are not attractive to herbivores, and are often passed by in favor of more normal appearing leaves to eat. Also, folded and drooped leaves exchange less heat and water than fully expanded leaves, and this might have some survival value when the plants are under environmental stress.”

Although we may like to project our own shyness onto the plants behaviour, I do not think the plant is trying to appear modest. If it had legs it would probably flee, whatever impression that might leave behind. So, even if we grant a plant intentions it still doesn’t intend to communicate with the movements treated here. No plant gestures here I am afraid. Maybe we need better examples, anyone?

Signs of an Angry Cactus

Beware! Plants, and especially cacti, do have body language according to Connie Krochmal of BellaOnline. Suddenly, my perception of the simple cactus and plant life in general is changed. It’s a blossoming horticulture out there, filled with a hitherto unknown flood of communication. A world of plant ideas and tree feelings. This cactus may really be giving us all the finger and must have been really mistreated.

Yo, bro, spare me the H2O. (by LĂȘ Anh Tuan)

Hilarious. I wonder who they are talking to? Is my plant aware I am here? Does it think I can solve its problems? Did this symbiosis evolve in the wild? Will it resent me for doing nothing? I am pretty sure miss Krochmal will, but doubt there will be repercussions from my cactus.

But then again… (source)

But perhaps I am too hasty to dismiss the idea of communicating plants. Apparently, corn under attack from worms can put out a chemical signal that attracts a predatory wasp. Good for the wasp, good for the corn. Suppose for a moment that life exists beyond this planet. Could our dwindling forests call in the Martians?

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