Scientists think this plant is 'intelligent'

It has no brain or central nervous system, but researchers say the tall goldenrod plant is intelligent.

That's the argument behind a new paper from Cornell University.

When faced with a problem, some plants, like the tall goldenrod, display decision-making abilities powered by a sort of memory.

"There are more than 70 definitions that are published for intelligence, and there is no agreement on what it is, even within a given field," Andre Kessler, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, at Cornell, said in a statement.

For their paper, Kessler and co-author Michael Mueller, a doctoral student in his lab, pared down their definition of intelligence to "the ability to solve problems, based on the information that you get from the environment, toward a particular goal," Kessler said.

Lab experiments showed the plant meeting this criterion, with one test suggesting that the tall goldenrod "hears" the screams of its neighbors when they're under attack.

When leaf beetles snack on goldenrod leaves, the plants emit chemicals, which act as a signal to other insects, telling them the plant is damaged and not a good food source.

They also change how their leaves reflect red light, which nearby goldenrods can detect.

Neighbouring plants that understand the signals launch a defense system, which includes growing faster and producing more chemicals that deter insects.

"This would fit our definition of intelligence," Kessler said.

"Depending on the information it receives from the environment, the plant changes its standard behaviour."

The study can be found in the journal Plant Signaling and Behavior..

Header image: File photo/Canva Pro.