This Plant Can Learn And Remember Things Just As Well As Animals Can, So Don’t Mess With It
Unless you'd like a flower with a vendetta against you for the rest of your natural life.
Last week, we posted this video from ASAPScience, where they tell you that they’re pretty sure plants can think. Now, a new study has been released with evidence that the Mimosa pudica, or the “touch-me-not” flower (my house sigil), actually has a long-term memory comparable to those found in animals.
Also known as the Sensitive plant (or, as I’m calling it, the NOPE plant), the Mimosa thinks every touch is a bad touch, and curls up its leaves whenever it experiences even the gentlest of pokes. Dr. Monica Gagliano and her colleagues from the University of Western Australia decided to treat the Mimosa like an animal, and see if it had short- or long-term memory for what constitutes a harmful touch.
Here’s video of the Mimosa in action; it’s a three-minute clip of someone repeatedly touching this plant, set to music directly from a Kids’ WB! cartoon, but it gets the point across:
Gagliano’s team used a special device to drop water on the plants repeatedly; after only a few seconds, the plant learned that the water drops were not harmful, and stopped closing up. The plants remembered that the water was okay even weeks later, and after its environment had been changed.
“Astonishingly,” the team writes in their paper, “Mimosa can display the learned response even when left undisturbed in a more favorable environment for a month. This relatively long-lasting learned behavioral change as a result of previous experience matches the persistence of habituation effects observed in many animals.”
The team says that, though plants lack a brain and neurons, they have a complex calcium-based signal network in their cells that functions similar to memory. That being said, they conclude that they actually have no idea what the biological situation is behind the learning mechanism – so just try not to anger any Mimosas in the near future.
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