Plants Like To Roll The Dice Too

Samuel Reason | December 18th, 2017

Next time you are planning your getaway to Las Vegas with your best pals to see if you can hit the jackpot, consider taking your favorite cactus with you – Turns out they like to gamble too!

A study has shown that plants are not the passive organisms we thought them to be. When faced with a tough decision it looks like plants also like to go for the risk. For example, take the following scenario, you are offered $500 or a coin toss to win $700, tails you win or heads you lose everything. Most people will take the sure thing of $500, but now imagine that you are stuck on a barren mountain and need $650 for the helicopter ride out of there! In that case, you will probably take the gamble and toss the coin. This why humans are capable of dynamic strategy, changing your choice of action in regards to your situation. And as it turns out plants can do this too! When confronted with a difficult terrain the species will also go for the gamble.

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This is something that scientist first believed only humans or animals were capable of, the ability to become risk takers instead of risk avoiders. Animals, humans, and insects are all capable of changing their strategy when faced with different situations. However until now, it was never thought that plants could do the same, sure they turn towards the sunlight and follow where the best humidity is but when the tables turned it was thought they could not change their move.

To figure this out researchers conducted the following experiment, they planted some pea plants but split the roots into two different pots. The two pots had the same type of nutrients but in one pot the level of nutrients stayed the same whereas in the other it continuously varied(sometimes there would be none!). If the pot that had constant levels of nutrients was enough for the plant to be healthy, then logically it grew more of its roots into this pot.

The interesting part is for the plants who were given the choice of one pot that had constantly a very low about of nutrients, this scenario the plants decided to roll the dice and grew their roots towards the pot were the nutrients varied. Hoping they would get lucky and fall on some high nutrient days! They were actually gambling their life, as if it did not get lucky then the plant would not receive enough nutrients to survive. So during hard times and difficult scenarios, it seems the humble pea plant grows nerves of steel and goes for the win!

The only explanation is the pea plants have some sort of way of sensing the conditions of each pot and then assessing the risks before making its decision. At the moment we do not really know how or why, but it definitely begs for more research into plant’s abilities! Maybe next time you hit the casino ask your favorite plant for roulette hint?

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