Plants are a vital source of life, providing sustenance and oxygen to the human and animal inhabitants of the world. But is plant life closer to sentient life than expected? This documentary from Jacques Mitsch outlines the ways in which intelligence is defined - by recognizing one's environment and interacting with it; having a memory; being able to communicate and interact socially; and having a brain to coordinate everything.
This film investigates the notion that plants are intelligent, evolved biological forms through interviews with researchers across the globe that are exploring the boundaries between animal and plant. Researchers in the Savannah desert find that populations of Kudu are mysteriously dying off, and make a surprising discovery – Acacia trees have developed a survival technique in response to dense herds of Kudu overgrazing.
When the trees sense that they are being overtaxed they defensively release a toxic gas, eliminating the threat to their population. In examining the predatory nature of plants such as the Venus Fly Trap, the narrator explains that plants have learned to adapt to their environments. In the case of the Venus Fly Traps and other carnivorous flora, the plants compensate for nutritional deficiencies by eating insects, further demonstrating that they are capable of reacting to their environment.
Scientists at Bonn University in Germany focus their studies on the exploration of plants' ability to recognize and respond to environmental stimuli. Using peas and beans as an example for their use of tendrils to seek out air and light, the researchers demonstrate their point by stimulating pea plants with sticks, causing the tendrils to react. They suggest that pea seedlings exhibit the capacity for memory and perception in their ability to grow upwards regardless of how they are positioned, i.e. a plant on its side reorients itself to continue vertical growth.
Japanese researchers investigate the way plants function at the molecular level, asking how plants sleep, if they need sleep and what happens if they don't sleep? By recreating day and night cycles in artificial conditions, they manipulate their botanical test subjects in the hopes of proving that sleep and rest are not purely animal behaviors.
A small but growing area of research, the study of plant intelligence is considered somewhat controversial and met with skepticism by the larger scientific community, but is no less important to our understanding of intelligent life be it human, animal or botanical. In the Mind of Plants provides valuable insight into this developing area of investigation and inspires viewers to consider our relationship with the botanical cohabitants of the world.