Plants Can 'Feel' Being Touched

A study led by the University of Western Australia has found that plants react to being touched by temporarily changing their internal gene expressions; researchers believe this response is a form of protection to defend themselves from potential danger.

Plants may not appear as animated as animals, but new research has found that they are, in fact, highly responsive to their environment. 

In fact, the recently published paper argues that plants actually react to being touched, and though the behavior is not visible on the outside, it is believed to produce changes on the inside. 

One of the initial experiments involved spraying the subjects with water; researchers observed a mass change in their gene expression which occurred soon after contact but “stopped in half an hour.” 

Subsequent tests showed the plants adjusting to other stimuli including a gentle pat, a light touch with tweezers, and even a “sudden shadow.” 

A press release issued by the University of Western Australia quotes the principal author, Dr. Olivier Van Aken, as saying, “Although people generally assume plants don’t feel when they are being touched, this shows that they are actually very sensitive to it and can redirect gene expression, defence and potentially their metabolism because of it.” 

The internal reaction is believed to be a protective mechanism to “help them detect danger and respond appropriately.” 

The team hopes these findings help people approach their interactions with plants differently.


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