wiki: The Secret Life of Plants
A polygraph test measures pulse, respiration rate and perspiration. Backster wanted to induce anxiety in the plant, so he decided to set one of its leaves on fire. But before he could even do it, the polygraph registered an intense reaction on the houseplant. Backster was bewildered: not only had the plant demonstrated fear, it had also read his mind. Backster concluded that plants had some undiscovered sense (he called it ďprimary perceptionĒ) that could detect and respond to human thoughts and emotions. Scientists were less convinced. No one had the same results as Backster.
As a result, Backster mainly worked outside the establishment, publishing his findings at pseudo-scientific outlets.
In 1973 Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird based their book on this phenomenon. It is about philosophies and progressive farming methods based on these polygraph findings. Also this book was very controversial in the scientific world. Also, there is a documentary based on this book, full of plant-polygraph experiments.
The Lorax might have spoken for the trees, but it turns out that trees can speak for themselves. At least to other trees, that is.
While it’s not news that a variety of communication happens between non-human elements of the natural world, the idea of mycelia (the main body of fungi, as opposed to the more well-known fruiting bodies – mushrooms) acting as a sort of old-school planetary internet is still a fairly recent one, and may serve as a spore of a new breed of forestry, ecology, land management.
Paul Stamets famously posited that “mycelia are Earth’s natural Internet,” and a variety of research has borne out that concept, but like many things we can’t see an obvious connection between, most of us tend to ignore the micro in favor of the macro. And when it comes to conservation and natural resources, our systems may be falling prey to the lure of reductionist thinking, with a tree being considered merely a commodity in the forest, which can be replaced simply by planting another tree. In fact, many reforestation efforts are considered successful when a large number of trees are replanted in areas where clearcutting has rendered large tracts of land treeless, even if those replanted trees are essentially turning a once diverse forest into a monocropped ‘farm’ of trees.
A recent talk at TEDSummit 2016 by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard seems to put the lie to the idea that a forest is merely a collection of trees that can be thought of as fully independent entities, standing alone even while surrounded by other trees and vegetation. As Simard, who has put in about three decades of research work into Canada’s forests, puts it, “A forest is much more than what you see.”