Since I am promoting an herbal webinar, I decided I should explain a bit about my inclusion. 99.3 percent of the biomass on this lovely planet is plant life. We humans are a small fraction of the remaining .7 percent of biomass that is animal life. Indigenous peoples have many stories recognizing both the intelligence of plants and our dependence on them. At best, their insight has been dismissed as folklore and fairy tales.
In Western religious belief, those actually working with plant wisdom were consorting with the Devil. At the height of the witch killings in Merry Olde England, women who seasoned their cooking with herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme could be divorced as the herbs had bewitched their husbands into wedlock. Daring to even consider the possibility of plant intelligence was and still is blasphemously unthinkable for many whose ancestors were part of such intolerance.
Even intellectual Western thought still tends to assume that anything that does not move the way we do can barely be considered a living being. Most of us survivors of Western Civilization never even think to question the 2500-year-old Greek philosophical argument that plants are not ‘animate’. We accept this bias unquestioningly, in large part because plant intelligence is truly alien to us humans.
Individual plants grow as a network of modular command centers. Like our internet, most plants will not only survive losing parts of themselves, but will be able to recreate those lost parts. Sometimes the part divided from the original plant may even be able to grow into an entirely separate plant.
Plants breath without having lungs like ours. They circulate their vital fluids without having a heart like ours. They eat without having a stomach like ours. And, they think without having a nervous system like ours.
Now science has had to admit that plants, from a single celled Euglena to the long-lived Yew Tree, display intelligence at least in the form of problem-solving behavior. Gravity, humidity, electromagnetic fields, acidity and a host of other chemical gradients are commonplace subjects of plant awareness and communication. Plants perceive, recognize and communicate through at least fifteen different biochemical gradients with their relatives and their allies to improve their circumstances as well as reacting to threats.
Much like our ancestors who experienced the shamanic World Tree as sustaining the life of our indigenous ancestors, DR. Stefano Mancuso, founder of the International Laboratory of Plant Intelligence, sees plants as the mediators between the Sun, the source of life energy on our planet, and the animal realm. Not least, Mancuso declares that, plants ‘have a universal function’ that sustains all life on our planet.
Plants release breathable oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide as part of photosynthesis, sustaining our atmosphere. They transpire enormous quantities of water as part of photosynthesis,, pulling water from the earth and releasing it, renewing the cycle of fresh water flowing over and through the land.
Chloroplasts only occur in green plants. They capture the energy of the Sun through photosynthesis. Then plants store that energy in the form of carbon compounds and share it with the rest of the ecosystem.
Although many plants have developed symbiotic relationships with the animal realms, they can survive without them. But all animals are dependent on plants. We animals, including humans, are dependent on the Plant people not only for the air we breathe, the clean water we drink and the food we eat, but for the ability to recycle our waste. Phyto-remediation is the technical term for plant’s ability to break down our waste products and return them to usefulness.
We humans are not immune to plant’s efforts to communicate. We have just limited our definition of awareness to our five senses. Unlike our centralized nervous system and giant brain that processes and responds to neurological input, plants do not have separate organs of awareness and organs of function.
They perceive and respond to light without eyes like ours, they perceive and respond to sound without ears like ours, they taste without tongues like ours, and they communicate through smell without noses like ours. Rather than lacking in intelligence because they do not have a nervous system, plants are fully embodied agents of intelligence that are not limited by a centralized nervous system.
Not all plants are interested or even friendly towards us humans, but a handful have decided to work with us humans, to their own benefit and sometimes to ours. There are some plants that indigenous peoples consider immediate family. These plants have agreed to sustain our human lives in exchange for our tending to their propagation.
In the American Southwest corn, beans and squash are considered our Three Sisters. Other plants offer medicines to heal human trials and tribulations. Some mediate visionary experiences. Others, like the Rose, seduce us into tending them with their scent.
Each plant has their story to tell. It us up to us humans to figure out how to understand what they are communicating to us. So the complementary views of the plants included in my World Tree deck of cards are folklore and plant intelligence, comparing the stories our ancestors told about our relatives in the plant realms with a most sophisticated intelligence that neuro-botanists are just beginning to recognize.