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You may have more friends in the garden than you think

Talking to plants is not a new concept, people have been suggesting it throughout human history.

But when we talk - do they listen?

Spending time in the garden is good for us

There are many benefits to getting out into the garden, and/or getting the garden into the home. Having greenery around us. Research shows many benefits of this. They increase the oxygen upon which we rely, feed off our carbon dioxide output, decrease drowsiness and increase awareness, reduce stress and anxiety to name just a few of the health benefits.

Many gardeners would say spending time around plants or in the garden is 'good for the soul'. And it can be great for the body too, spending time weeding, mowing, cutting and pruning is a great way to keep fit and stave off the effects of aging - and I know my blackberry bush has personally kept me rich in blackberry gin and jam for several years now (to which I am eternally thankful!)

So, overall, plants are good for us - and obviously, when we are tending them, we are good for them too.

Plants are social, as well

Plants are more social than some people I know.

For example, Arabidopsis plants can tell who their own relatives are, by the light reflected off those nearby plants. In the forest, trees use the mycelial network to share information with each other and to also share resources. For example:

  • Trees that share neighbours live longer than trees that stand alone

  • Trees share nutrients and minerals with their neighbours, sharing more with their relatives than with unrelated trees

  • Trees will warn their neighbours of predatory attacks or diseases, to give them a 'heads-up' and to help the greater community

  • They have also been known to reduce or stop their sharing with sick trees that may not survive, in order to share more with those others who will more likely survive

And, of course, they've been helping us biological species along by feeding us for something like 500 million years - not a bad social history!

But do they know we are there?

It's a pretty radical idea - but it may well be true; plants may have a form of consciousness. NewScientist reported recently:

  • Some plants, such as the Touch-me-not, react to our touch as if aware we are there. But importantly, if we apply an anesthetic to them, that reaction stops, just like it does in humans. So if they can be 'put to sleep' with an anesthetic, does that mean they are 'awake' as well?

  • Other plants defend themselves by actively communicating with their enemies; tomato plants for example release chemicals that convince caterpillars to turn on and eat other caterpillars rather than the plant they're on.

  • Plants can sense their environments and react in smart ways. For example, primroses can hear the pollinating insects as they approach, and produce nectar in response.

  • Other plants seem to show a form of response that goes beyond simple triggers; for example, when beans are growing their shoots will wave around looking for a pole or support to climb - but when you observe that in motion (and sped up, of course) you see them react when support is close, and suddenly lunge towards it as if they saw it, or felt it nearby.

Just because they don't have a brain or respond the way we humans do, does not mean that plants don't have a form of consciousness and an internal world of their own.

Which only goes to make it even more amazing that we share some of that with them.

So next time you're in the garden, take a moment to say hello to your little friends (without the threatening Italian Godfather accent).

They might just know you're there.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.


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