What Do Plants Think And Feel?

Hi folks,

I was awoken in the middle of the night by a teenager turning on lights, and I just could not get back to sleep. Thinking of teenagers, here is my favorite but unfortunately deceased dog, Trixie.


What a lovely dog she was, and I had no doubt about her thinking or feeling lots of things because her expressions of pleasure and pain were not so different from my own and those of the other humans around me. Her favorite trick to get attention was to gently place her nose under your elbow and push up. This endearing mannerism spilled more than one cup of early morning tea, but I would happily deal with that a thousand times if I could have her back.

In addition to animals, I have had many plant friends, who I suspected of possessing definite personalities.

Two old friends, hibiscus on the left

One particular plant, a straggly hibiscus, when she was feeling well would present me daily with a single beautiful red flower in the middle of winter. She died too, of old age I suspect, and I miss that plant almost as much as I miss Trixie. I carried that hibiscus from house to house for almost a decade. I would talk to her, and often wonder what she was thinking or feeling. Her personality reminded me of the rose in the Little Prince. Which brings me to the question that stuck in my mind today. Do plants really think and feel? I both think and feel that they do, and you won’t convince me otherwise, I suspect. That said, I would like to propose that, instead of reacting in our usual speciesist manner, we assume that all living organisms think and feel in their own way until we find evidence to the contrary. I make this suggestion simply because (a) we are all genetically related, (b) we all do very similar things when it comes to seeking what we need and avoiding danger, (c) our cells and sub-cellular structures are remarkably alike, and (d) who are we to say that they don’t?

I decided to see what Google could find on the matter. Vegetable matter with grey matter? There is evidence that cabbages have relatives with good memories and a nervous system of sorts, for a start. Just watch the following time-lapse movies on YouTube to see plants exploring their environment, fighting for territory and dancing, much as we do.

Do plants feel, I wonder? Professor Anthony Trewavas, of Edinburgh University thinks so, and so do I, but is there any proof? Wikipedia has an excellent discussion of this matter, where the subject is linked to paranormal studies and it is stated that the scientific community considers the available evidence of plant sentience to be pseudoscience. Here is an interesting movie on the subject, which raises some interesting ethical questions concerning ‘plant rights.’

I must admit that I feel bad when I see plants thrown out on the sidewalk in the same way I do for abandoned kittens or puppies. So I plan to keep on talking to my plants whatever ‘the scientists’ say!





  1. Sue Hunter says

    I read an article that related a woman’s experience with her autistic son. He was “acting distressed” and covering his ears. She finally got him to respond to her querys about what was wrong. He told her he could hear the dying potted plants “screaming”. On a trail I ran is a Huge old oak. My daughter and I can’t reach around it together. I would always lay my hand on it as I ran by, and say good morning. 🙂

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