Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Did you know? - Plants can actually feel pain

Ouch…It hurts! Very common exclamation for most of us. But what if you could hear a plant saying this? Well, you won’t believe that but plants suffer everyday.  Simply we are not able to hear them. Yesterday I was minding my own business when, all of a sudden, I started hearing a noise out of the window. There were two gardeners cutting the grass. In my opinion there’s nothing better than catching a whiff of freshly cut grass. For us it could be quite pleasant. But for the grass that smell is pure horror.

The smell we associate with freshly cut grass is actually a chemical distress call used by plants to beg nearby critters to save them from attack. If you could be able to hear these call, it would be a horrifying scream.  After all, when there’s a threat, whether it's a lawnmower or a hungry caterpillar, plants can't run away. They must fight where they stand. And that is exactly what they do.


In  order to protect themselves, plants employ a gust of molecular responses. These chemical communications can be used to poison an enemy, alert plants all around of potential dangers or attract helpful insects. Sometimes, a plant's molecular defense has multiple purposes. For instance, plants that produce caffeine use the chemical as self-defense, but it’s also useful for bees’ pollination. The scent of caffeine constricts bees to carve for more. The result is a swarm of bees surrounding the plant,  letting the plant leave the pollen and ensuring the continuity of species.

But this can be just seen as a way of communicate . But does that mean they can feel pain? I’m sorry for vegetarians and vegans, but the answer won't be very pleasant.

According to researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany, after cutting or injuring a plant, some gases are released. These molecules are the equivalent of tears in human beings, so releasing these gases would mean crying out in pain for the plant. And using a laser-powered microphone, just to make things even worse, researchers have picked up specific sound waves produced by plants while releasing that gases. Although not perceptible by humans, the secret voices of plants have revealed that cucumbers scream when they are sick, and flowers whine when their leaves are cut. Speaking of crying plants, the Mandragora's cry (on the left you have some examples of this strange animal-plant hybrid) was believed to be extremely lethal for humans, but this sure is another story...

Today is the remorse fair. There's also evidence that plants can hear themselves being eaten. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found out that plants understand and respond to chewing sounds made by caterpillars or humans that are dining on them. As soon as the plants hear the noises, they respond with plenty of defense mechanisms.


To sum up, the combination of distress calls, releasing gases and emitting sounds….is actually pain!! Some researchers and botanists argue that pain is strictly connected with the brain. Without one, pain cannot be registered. But plants can actually demonstrate to be extremely intelligent without having a brain or conscious awareness. The actual feeling of pain would not be so far from truth.

After all, plants are able to communicate, and there’s no denying. Trees in a forest can warn their relatives of insect attacks. And, if they’re near enough to one another, there can be also a nutrients exchange. This biological network helps plants propagate, grow and survive. All these processes can be verified using injections of radioactive carbon isotopes. Within a few days, carbon is sent from tree to tree to all the nearby plants in the area. This complex network of roots, leaves and stems is also used by older trees to help the younger ones to collect the light until they’re strong enough to be completely independent.

Plants have a great sense of community…even more than humans. What do you think? Do you think plants sense pain? Have these scientific researches convinced you? After reading this, you might have changed your mind. When you’ll read “Please keep off the grass”, maybe you should follow the advice. Have a great life and Never Stop Snooping Around. 

10 comments:

  1. Interesting... So, maybe vegan diet isn't actually "cruelty free"...

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    1. Yes, I'm afraid everyone has their own remorse :)

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  2. Oh, yes. I felt this even before I understood it. I used to play pretend as a teacher and my students are my mother's plants. They grew healthy! They didn't when I stopped "teaching" them. :)

    They're living creatures so I believe they have feelings. I understand it now better though.

    Great facts here again!

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    1. That was sure a great way to let them feel loved. So kind and thoughtful. I do the same with my plants. I treat them like my own children ;)

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    2. Right? My roomate once told me that my basil was like a pet. :D

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  3. Here is a little science and logic. An organism lacking a brain and nervous system are not capable of feeling pain. Your references are suggesting response to stimuli. Not actual pain.

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    1. In a scientific way this is true, but some scientists believe that plants have such a complex connection of mechanisms that leads to a pseudo-emotion classified as pain. Of course without a brain that emotion cannot be compared to the human feeling, but it's very similar.

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  4. This is why as a witch I leave "gifts" and a blessing from plants I must gather.

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    1. I'm sure that, thanks to your gifts and blessings, they'll help you with their power in all of your enchantments and potions :)

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