Living On “Plant Time”

Time warps600x600When A Blink Takes A Minute

Does it take you two hours to tie your shoes?

Do you enjoy a Beethoven symphony played over the course of 24 hours ?

If so, you may be living on “plant time”.

As we saw in a previous post, there are many examples of plant movements — but most of the time they simply occur too slowly for us to notice.

We know that plants can perceive and move in response to the direction of light (see YouTube video below), to the direction of gravity, and to mechanical stimulation, such as climbing vines for example.

But we never actually observe these phenomena happening in “real time”.

If we are very, very patient, or if we use time-lapse photography to condense “plant time” into “real time”, we are then able to clearly perceive such movements.

When we study such videos, it’s certain that plants can perceive their physical environment and can adjust their growth and development in response to these perceptions.

Living in Slow Motion

We live our lives within a different framework of time compared to plants. That is, though plants obviously share our physical reality, they seem to exist within a different, much slower “time reality” than us, at least with regard to most cases of plant movements.

How slow is “plant time” compared to human time?

How long does it take you to reach up your hand and scratch your nose? Two seconds? For a young, growing plant shoot, for example, to move through a comparable range of motion could take from two to twenty hours. Or about 3,600 to 36,000 times slower than you!314347a3a1f054ccf3075cc947c8ccc42746a9cd

This is not because plants perceive or measure time differently than animals. Indeed, the way plants measure time is remarkably similar to the way that humans do. For example, many plant functions fluctuate with a circadian rhythm comparable to animals. (See previous post about how plants tell time.) Thus, a minute is a minute, and an hour is in an hour, and a day is a day, all the same to both plants and animals.

The reason for this is that the cellular mechanisms of the biological clock are quite similar in plant cells compared to animal cells. This is, by the way, one of the many examples of how similar plants and animals are at the cellular level.

No, we live within a different time framework than plants do primarily because we are motile creatures and plants are not.

Because we have sophisticated, integrated neuromuscular systems, we can respond to stimuli within seconds, even fractions of seconds. It typically takes plants hours, if not days, to move organs — stems, leaves, or roots — in response to external stimuli because plants lack an animal-like nervous system and because, of course, plants don’t have muscles.

But despite this, plants can and do move, albeit slowly. How do they do it?

To be continued….

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