Do plants have feelings? And if so, can they feel pain?
If you’re anything like us, you cringed at the thought of all the poppy petals crumpling underneath the shoes of Instagrammers during the California Super Bloom “Apocalypse.” Or the sunflowers crushed when hordes of selfie-seekers stormed a seed farm, forcing it to close forever.
But it got us thinking about things from the perspective of the plant. Do plants have feelings? And if they do, can they feel pain?
Here’s what science has to say:
Plants can sense things
Forget needing eyes to see, ears to hear, and noses to smell. Plants can sense sound, light, and smell by using membrane proteins, according to researchers.
Plants can respond to vibrations
Scientists observed that Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant, produced a displeasing chemical when caterpillars were feeding on it. The study also noted that the plant reacted differently to the vibrations of caterpillar munches than windy weather. Meaning, plants can differentiate feeding vibrations from environmental ones.
Plants show signs of learning from experience
The Mimosa Piduca, a.k.a the “sensitive plant,” collapses in response to physical disturbances, which some researchers say is a sign of learning. The study also explained that even when the plant was left undisturbed for months, it still folded which showed a “long-lasting learned behavioural change as a result of previous experience.”
Plants don’t have central nervous systems
Unlike animals and humans, plants do not have brains or central nervous systems. And as far as we can tell, no reputable study has proven that plants have emotions (even if they can feel and sense things).
“Plants don’t have pain receptors. Plants have pressure receptors that allow them to know when they’re being touched or moved—mechanoreceptors.”
Long story short: more research needs to be done before we can conclude exactly what plants are feeling and why. But one thing is for sure, plants are extremely fascinating and deserve our respect.
We’re not suggesting you slow down your kale and celery intake (plants are obviously a staple of plant-based diets, which we are all about at Wholesome Culture), but maybe second guess ripping a flower out of the ground to put it in your hair and stay on the trail instead of skipping through flower fields (even if it’s for the Insta).
Now that you have the skinny on plants, check out this post to learn about the emotional lives of animals:
And check out these other posts about animals and the environment:
- Want to save baby farm animals? This sanctuary needs your help
- 5 environmental issues that need to be on your radar this year
- 4 amazing things you didn’t know about sparrows