Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees

Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees

for all you tree lovers, here is something pretty darn amazing to read

It’s not just nutrient flows that Simard describes. It’s communication. She—and other scientists studying roots, and also chemical signals and even the sounds plant make—have pushed the study of plants into the realm of intelligence. Rather than biological automata, they might be understood as creatures with capacities that in animals are readily regarded as learning, memory, decision-making, and even agency.


Chemicals released by other species are great indicators, and they do have information, if there exists an agent that can decode. At the end the ability to decode is essentially packed in the agents ability to modify a behaviour pattern. If this is what the author means intelligence, then yes, all living creatures are intelligent. Foul smell and the smell of a rhiizome (or a healthy root) generates opposite behavioural modifications in us as well as in other creatures.

I generally don’t use the term “intelligence” to this but an ability to produce a variety of responses to the same stimulus. For example, if I can modify my default rexation to the foul smell I take that as an I dictator of intelligence.I Therefore will not grant this meaning of intelligence to the phenomena narrated in the article.

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@G_N you are absolutely correct given the way you are defining intelligence. We can assume that trees (perhaps) don’t have self-reflection, arguably the ultimate test of intelligence. That said, it is not just stimulus-response behavior that we should focus on. There is more than that. Here is an excerpt from another study (Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia Mega-Genomes Sequenced | UC Davis)

A coast redwood genome, sequenced only recently at UC-Davis, has 27 billion base pairs of DNA, about 9 times that of humans. A redwood can also live for more than 3000 years, an incomprehensible timescale for us who are lucky if we make it past 70. Usually we are just stupid enough to kill each other. Compared to humans, trees are way more intelligent and strong, the redwoods especially as they have to stay in the same place for thousands of years and fend off every attack – disease, insects, storms.

That last sentence stuck in my head for a long time – the redwoods especially as they have to stay in the same place for thousands of years and fend off every attack – disease, insects, storms – to stay alive for thousands of years, that in itself is an ability that far surpasses any other living thing. Surely, that is a sign of something.

There are other behaviors as well. For example, consider Canopy shyness. This is remarkable. Of course, there is much we have still not discovered. So much to learn

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In a separate discussion, the element of ‘pause’ has figured. For long living trees, and we are familiar with many examples around us whose life is typically longer than ours, if not as much as 3k years, the velocity of response might also be much slower than what is needed for a typical motile species. Hence we may need to reconsider what constitutes evidence of intelligence in such creatures.

Meaning, it might be similar to ours conceptually, but on such a large time scale, it might not be that visible to us.

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