Plant perception, or biocommunication in plant cells, is the belief that plants are sentient, and that they experience pain, pleasure, or emotions such as fear and affection. It is theorized that they have the ability to communicate with humans and other forms of life in a recognizable manner.
While plants can communicate through chemical signals, and certainly have complex responses to stimuli, the belief that they possess advanced affective or cognitive abilities receives significant support. In contrast to the results of scientific research, this concept is believed among the parapsychology studies community and believers in the Gaia hypothesis.
One of the first to research the concept was the Indian scientist Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, who conducted experiments on plants in the year 1900. He found that every plant and every part of a plant appeared to have a sensitive nervous system and responded to shock by a spasm just as an animal muscle does. One visitor to his laboratory, the vegetarian playwright George Bernard Shaw, was intensely disturbed upon witnessing a demonstration in which a cabbage had violent convulsions as it boiled to death.
Bose found that the effect of manures, drugs, and poisons could be determined within minutes, providing plant control with a new precision. In addition, Bose found that plants grew more quickly amidst pleasant music and more slowly amidst loud noise or harsh sounds. He also claimed that plants can feel pain and understand affection based on his analysis of the variation of the cell membrane potential. According to him, a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture.
In 1966, Cleve Backster, an American scientist, conducted research that led him to believe that plants can communicate with other lifeforms. He sought to measure the rate at which water rises from a philodendron’s root area into its leaves. Because a polygraph or lie detector can measure electrical resistance, and water would alter the resistance of the leaf, he decided that this was the correct instrument to use. After attaching a polygraph to one of the plant’s leaves, Backster claimed that to his immense surprise the tracing began to show a pattern typical of the response of a human to emotional stimulation of short duration.
Led by curiosity, Backster went in search of other reactions, and decided to burn a leaf of the plant. Apparently, while he was musing upon this, there was a dramatic upward sweep in the tracing pattern. He had not moved or even touched the plant. Backster was certain that he had somehow inspired fear in the plant with his decision to burn it. He came to the resolution that, if he was correct, plants can not only feel things, but can also perceive a person’s intent as it relates to the plant itself.
English author Roald Dahl wrote a short story entitled The Sound Machine dealing with the theory, in which the protagonist develops a machine that enables him to hear the sound of plants, especially when they are under pain. With the machine he hears the scream of roses being cut, and the moan of a tree when he strikes it with an axe.
Prince Charles is well known for talking to plants and others have followed his advice. He is quoted as stating, “I just come and talk to the plants, really. It’s very important to talk to them. They respond.”