Plant Perception

Plants are often thought of as passive organisms, simply rooted to the ground and waiting to be acted upon by their environment. However, recent research has revealed that plants are far more complex than we previously thought, possessing a range of sensory and perceptive abilities that enable them to sense and respond to their surroundings.

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One area of plant perception that has received a great deal of attention in recent years is the ability of plants to detect and respond to various forms of stimuli, including light, touch, sound, and even the presence of other organisms. For example, plants are known to respond to the direction and intensity of light by growing towards or away from the light source, a process known as phototropism [1]. Similarly, plants are capable of detecting and responding to touch, with many species exhibiting thigmotropism, the tendency to grow in response to mechanical stimulation [2].

In addition to these more traditional forms of perception, recent research has also suggested that plants may be capable of more complex forms of sensing and response. For example, a study published in the journal Science in 2018 found that plants are capable of detecting and responding to the sounds of their environment, with certain species of plants exhibiting increased growth in response to the sounds of running water [3]. Similarly, a study published in the journal Nature in 2019 found that plants are capable of detecting and responding to the presence of other organisms, with some species of plants releasing chemicals to deter herbivores and attract predators in response to the presence of insects [4].

While the exact mechanisms underlying these various forms of plant perception and response are still not fully understood, researchers have identified a number of potential mechanisms that may be involved. For example, some researchers have suggested that plant perception may be mediated by specialized sensory structures known as mechanoreceptors, which are capable of detecting mechanical stimuli such as touch and pressure [5]. Similarly, other researchers have proposed that plants may use a variety of chemical signals and signalling pathways to communicate and respond to their environment [6].

Despite the growing body of research on plant perception, many questions still remain unanswered. For example, it is not yet clear how plants integrate and process different types of sensory information to generate appropriate responses or how these responses are coordinated and regulated at the cellular and molecular levels. Nevertheless, the emerging picture of plant perception and response is one that challenges traditional notions of plants as passive and unresponsive organisms and suggests that we have much more to learn about the complex lives of these fascinating organisms.


[1] Briggs, W. R. (2014). Phototropism: Some history, some puzzles, and a look ahead. Plant Physiology, 164(1), 13-23. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.229922

[2] Darwin, C. (1880). The power of movement in plants. London, UK: John Murray.

[3] Gagliano, M., Grimonprez, M., Depczynski, M., & Renton, M. (2017). Tuned in: Plant roots use sound to locate water. Oecologia, 183(3), 633-642. doi: 10.1007/s00442-017-3861-z

[4] Karban, R., Shiojiri, K., & Ishizaki, S. (2019). Plant communication with herbivores and their enemies: From cues to signals, signature whistles, and trade-offs. Plant, Cell & Environment, 42(1), 21-28. doi: 10.1111/pce.13537 [5] Stahlberg, R., Cleland, R., & van Volkenburgh, E. (2006)