What Gianoli discovered that day is a remarkable ability that is perhaps unique to B. trifoliolata: As the vine grows, it can mimic other nearby plants.
More incredible still is that two different parts of the same individual can mimic the leaves of two distinct plants, even if they look dramatically different, he says.
Plants have no brains or eyes. So how do they sense the shape of leaves around them and then copy it?
On one side are mainstream botanists, whose work is rooted in rigorous, repeatable studies, and on the other is a small group of researchers who believe plants share a number of attributes with animals, including humans.
And sure enough, it could, according to the study. “Leaves of B. trifoliolata mimicked leaves of the artificial plant,” it notes plainly.
It seems like an obvious follow up experiment would attempt to modify the artificial plant in a unique way, like changing the shape of the leaves, to see if B. trifoliolata is able to approximate it.
A common thread in the theories of plant neurobiology is that plants are sentient beings that share certain features with higher-order organisms like humans.
Is there a group of people who eat neither animals nor plants? Because this is how you get that group of people, short lived though they may be.
There’s nothing wrong with laying out big or far-fetched hypotheses, as long as you test them, said Haswell of Washington University in St. Louis. That’s what moves science forward.
“We are scientists, and we have to admit when we’re wrong,” Gianoli said. “But we don’t have to be too anthropocentric or soul-centric, expecting that plants have to be like animals or like humans. They don’t have to have eyes because they don’t need eyes. They have other sensory systems.”