Plant Consciousness: Do Plants Have Feelings?

Plants are living beings, but are they conscious? This is a question this year I have started to explore more deeply. Do plants have consciousness? What defines consciousness?

Ormeau Bottle Trees

I have been growing two rare and endangered Ormeau Bottle tree saplings, Brachychiton sp. Ormeau.

Ormeau Bottle trees are listed as critically endangered with only 161 individuals found in the wild in a range of less than one square kilometre. They grow to be over 120 years old.

One I have been paying more attention to and the other I have watered the same but not given it much thought. The one I pay attention to is right in front of our front door and every morning I go past this plant. Every morning I spend a moment to admire its incredible beauty and how quickly it is growing. I also touch its leaves which have a lovely rough texture to them.

Treelings With Feelings

It’s juvenile leaves are shaped like long thin fingers that radiate from the centre. Compared to the tree I pay little attention to, this tree’s leaves are almost double the size. This could simply be genetics but I like to think that whatever we place our attention on tends to expand and grow.

Could it be that human emotion can affect the growth of plants around us? Could it be that plants have conscious awareness and pick up on physical and emotional energy around them.

Hooking up my Ormeau Bottle tree to record its biorhythms as music.
Hooking up my Ormeau Bottle tree sapling to record its biorhythms as synthesised music. Do treelings have feelings?


Last month I hooked up my star Ormeau Bottle tree to an MIDI converter instrument that translates biorhythms from plants and synthesises these into music in real time.

The Dictionary definition of a biorhythm is:

A recurring cycle of physiological or functioning of an organism, such as the daily cycle of sleeping and waking.

It also defines biorhythms as:

A cyclic pattern of physical, emotional, or mental activity believed to occur in a person’s life.


Do Plants Have Feelings?

I don’t see plants as being simple living organisms that are just automatically ‘programmed’ to grow and reproduce. I see them as organisms, just like humans, who respond to life in more complex ways that we are yet to fully appreciate, and may even have ‘feelings’.

This may seem a little far fetched, but seeing corporations as lawful persons to me is even more out there. At least plants are living breathing biological entities.

When It All Turns To Cabbage

Sounds a bit way out? I’m sure it does, but experiments as far back as in the 1950’s have shown remarkable results of plants that show empathy and react to other plants and even to animals being killed in a separate room.

One experiment in Russia involved two potted cabbage plants in the same room. A series of people entered the room looking at one of the plants and then left the room. Then one person came past and began to pull apart and destroy one of the cabbage plants in the presence of the other cabbage plant.

Do plants have consciousness? Do they have memory? Can they feel empathy and fear?

The witnessing cabbage plant was hooked up to record its biorhythms which showed unusual pattern activity during the incident. A while later the people who had previously looked and walked past the now dismembered cabbage plant didn’t cause any unusual biorhythmic patterns in the witnessing cabbage plant. However, as soon as the assailant entered the room, the witnessing cabbage plant’s activity started becoming erratic. Could it be that plants have senses we haven’t quite discovered yet and that they may feel fear?

Plant Consciousness

From the above example would you say that plants are conscious?

How does define consciousness?

1. the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.

2. a person’s awareness or perception of something.

Would you say that the plant in the cabbage experiment exhibits consciousness?

Let’s Make Beautiful Music Together

Back to my Ormeau Bottle Tree. It had been raining after a long hot dry spell and for my first recording I attached the receptor pads to two of the plant’s leaves just after the rain had stopped. Below is a recording of the calming music that was recorded. Sit back and enjoy the calming sounds of my Ormeau Bottle tree, if you listen carefully you can hear rainbow lorikeets in the background too.

Do plants have feelings? Could this be the sound of joy following rain after a long hot dry spell?

Could this be the music of joy and celebration after such a long hot dry spell? Who knows.

Plant consciousness
Do plants have consciousness? Can they respond to their environment beyond automatic mechanical responses? Can plants exhibit emotions such as empathy and fear?

I have plans to experiment further with plants this year and see where this journey into plant consciousness takes me.

These Carrots Have Been Murdered

If plants really do have feelings and are sentient beings then it puts us in a really interesting moral and ethical position.

We are living beings that at the very least must gain sustenance from plants. Until we all can become breatherians, and gain sustenance from surrounding energy and our breath, this question will continue to rage.

Also, will we begin to see the rampant destruction of plant and forest communities in a new light?

Will there be a time when some day in the future plants and trees are given rights to their existence? That we respect and value the rights of plants to live and reproduce not for what they can provide us as raw or medical/scientific resources or even because of their inherent beauty but as fellow living beings that we share this planet with.

I couldn’t but help to finish this with a light hearted snippet from the film, Notting Hill.

What do you think?

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