This article explores how clonal plants use environmentally induced epigenetic changes to remember past experiences and prepare for challenges in the future. Translated, these authors want to show how the high connectivity between clonal plants–such as Aspen trees–where every new ramet, AKA instance of the plant, is an identical clone enables new ramets to inherit unaltered and direct experiences.
In addition to this, the fact that all ramets are connect to the same genet means that new information is constantly flowing to each plant instance.
The authors propose that clonal plants have an advantage over non-clonal plants in exhibiting intelligent behavior because they can inherit historical information more faithfully and coordinate their responses among connected ramets. Expanding this model out to humans, we can see how distributed historical information shared out can create a more complex, swarm-like intelligence that is greater than the individuals involved.
Topics Covered about intelligent behavior in clonal plants
- Clonal ramets receive direct, unaltered information from the entire colony
- Connectivity of clonal plants give them an advantage
- Plant memory can be distributed across an entire colony
- Intergration of information across multiple ramets experiencing different conditions
Discover the memory of clonal plants:
LIVE Plant Consciousness Commentary every Friday
Where we explore all things plant neurobiology, plant cognition, plant intelligence, plant humanities, and the birth of critical plant studies through the lens of personal evolution. Livestreams are every Friday in the Naturally Conscious Community.
Be a part of the conversation in the Naturally Conscious Community
Let’s talk more in the only online ecosystem that nourishes plant reawakening for enhanced evolution and collaboration with our plant friends. Connect with nature-conscious creatives, multipotentialites, and naturentrepreneurs who share your desire to see beauty in the world. >> JOIN OUR COMMUNITY <<
Get to Know Me, Tigrilla Gardenia
COURSES and PROGRAMS:
- ReConnect with the Plant Kingdom course
- Mini-Voyages with Spirit Wild Plants
- Kickstart Your Conscious (R)Evolution bootcamp
- Plant Wisdom Book Club
Looking for a mentor/coach to help you confidently embody a Naturally Conscious Life? Book a discovery call here, and let’s discuss how I can support you.
Transcript of commentary on Epigenetic Memory as a Basis for Intelligent Behavior in Clonal Plants
Hello, hello Hello everyone. Welcome to another commentary of plant consciousness so excited to be here with you and super excited to be sharing. Oh well, just one of my How can I say this one of my favorite articles that we’ve gone through so far. I’m not gonna go into it too much as I describe it all as you know, these sessions are alive in the naturally conscious community every Friday so that’s community dot CBT I got dania.com and I replay them here because I feel like they’re just so important. So if you want to participate live, every Friday you will find it in the naturally conscious community come on in we would love to have you and if not, you just catch the replay either here or the naturally conscious community or even on YouTube. I mean lots of different places for you to go. So without further ado, this is all about epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligence. By the way, I know the title sounds a little hairy and a little technical, but I promise I break it down for you to make it super easy to understand. And as always, I am here so I welcome your comments. And feedback. All right. I will talk to you soon
Hello, I am in a completely different timezone so I took me a minute to get everything sort of sorted and worked out and I was asked offline all day yesterday as I traveled and when I get back it’s like the flood of stuff and information and just finding the right balance everything so I am really happy to be here. Super excited that I make it made it for those of you that know where I am like this will give you the reference of where I am such and yeah, so I had to also sort out the paper because I was very torn between two different papers that I wanted to go through especially because one of them is slightly tech. Well actually they both are kind of technical. But I think that they provide a really great abstraction of models that we can look at. And you know that here, we have been going through a lot of the type of commentary that’s more philosophical in nature. And here we’re going to get into another paper that’s more biological in nature and then how can we look at that biology to extrapolate models that we can work with?
So this is really an important aspect that I think I don’t emphasize enough and I want to start emphasizing more which is that plants as models, plants as mentors and plants as partners and plants also as measure, right, measuring the sense of helping us understand like in how much we should do something or not do something to help us give us different types of ways of interacting and working with plants. And mean this happens with all persons right so even human people you have those people that you look at as as kind of models that you think about and you watch and you watch from afar and you say Oh, I would really like to look at that way that they do things. And then you have also humans that you look at from the perspective of mentors and you have a relationship with and they teach you from their experience. And then you also have these plants you know people that you’re you’re collaborating with but you’re actually kind of at a partnership level and as as the same level so I think it’s really important to help and so that are actually your your moral compass right that help you really understand how your own moral beliefs and thoughts and processes.
I’m kind of bothered right now because this computer is I didn’t have I didn’t think about this beforehand. I usually turn fit up on a really beautiful book. That’s way too far right now for me to go and get but I want to raise that to pretty much nothing. I want to raise my computer a little bit because I don’t like it. That you’re looking up at me. So I’m going to use my mother’s Italian book. This is my mother learning Italian in 10 minutes a day. She has a lot of fun with it. So I’m going to use her book and I’m going to prop you up a little bit more and see if this kind of gives me a better angle. I don’t want you I don’t want you to just looking up at me. It gets crazy. Anyway. So you have all these other things to remember. So Pardon me while I You’re you’re being a part of my of my prop process here, which is kind of a crap process, but it’s all good. It works. Okay.
So slightly angled and not in a way that I feel super comfortable with but where it’s going to have to do for right now. Okay. Now I’m going to take off this Sorry, sorry, sorry. Thank you for being super patient with me as I work through all of these types of things. Okay. This is better. This is the best I’m going to get to right now. All right. Let’s move forward. Let’s go into this paper. So Happy Friday for everyone. I hope that wherever you are, you’re doing really well. Thank you for watching. If you’re watching this on a replay, awesome Please leave any comments or questions, concerns, thoughts, anything you might have, so that we can address this or you can just come into the naturally conscious community and, you know, watch this live. So here is what we’re going to talk about. We are going to talk about epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligent plant behavior in clonal plants.
So let’s give some definition before I share my screen because it’s important for us to understand epigenetic for those of you that don’t know what they mean. But what we’re talking about when we’re talking about epigenetic, we are talking about things that are relating to changes, especially specifically things that you can inherit, or characteristics of an organism can also be the cell or whatever that results from altering the expression of a gene. In other words, they do not involve changing the DNA sequence itself, like how many genes you have or don’t have, but more of how is it that that gene expresses itself? So how is it that you’re moving? This really is something connected oftentimes to the whole idea of nurture versus nature, right? When we talk about nature, you’re talking about what were you born with? What is it that is your physiological perspective of what you are born with? from a spiritual perspective, I would also add, like if you’re talking about what is the structure of your soul, what are the inherent traits and personalities that you come into being with but that’s for the audience that really, you know, is thinking about this beyond and the fact that we are both a physical as well as a spiritual body.
So what are regardless of whether you’re talking about physically or spiritually what are all the elements that you come? into being with, right? That is my nurturers by nature perspective. And then my nurture perspective, is the idea of how do those express themselves by the way that we are, by the way, what we live in, how are we nurtured what are the things what is our environment give us so epigenetic changes are oftentimes also reversible. This is the things like when the recent article in instruct discussions around the idea of my personalities and how do my personalities kind of take hold? How do they show how do they change my body? Nothing changes my DNA itself, but it changes how my DNA is read. You can think of it in that way. And this is the exact same thing that we’re talking about relating to even from a spiritual perspective. This doesn’t change the composition of my soul, the composition of my attractor with all of my personalities, but instead how those personalities interact with one another and express themselves through me. So this is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about epigenetic changes. And in this particular paper, that we’re talking about epigenetic memory, so the idea of remembering what these changes are or how these changes have been experienced, as a basis for the intelligence for the behavior, so it provides information that allows for an intelligent movement or an Intel intelligent response. I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. of clonal plants.
So in case of clonal plants, we’re talking about plants that reproduce themselves by creating clones of themselves. So things that have for example, we talked about aspen trees, right Pendo if you read my recent article about Pando, Pando is a clonal plant, is an aspen a quaking aspen trees and a specimen trees represent they reproduce clonally so this is a really there’s lots of plants that produce that that are able to reproduce themselves by producing a kind of, they think they’re called Run nets. So they produce a sort of run NET or that looks and is capable of independent growth and even of speed disparate, I mean of dispersal of moving on into other directions and that remit that gets created. So is a way for them to reproduce. Exactly. So the DNA sequences are the same because technically from a genetic perspective, all of what you’re seeing in you look at something like Panda all this, this forest filled of Quicken, Aspen’s all are actually the same tree from an A genetic perspective so that that DNA that that phenotype rather than the expression the epigenetic expression is different, because there are they are in different areas, so something as large as panda which is this giant forest of quaking, Aspen’s the ones that are maybe more on the south side and are getting more sun will grow in certain ways.
And we’ll have certain kinds of genetic expressions where those that are growing more in the north or maybe more in a shaded area will have a different kind of genetic expression, even though all of their genetics are absolutely the same because they are clones of one another. The way they express themselves is very much connected to the area in which they grow. So hopefully that makes sense. I’m trying to think of other plants that tend to be clonal plants there’s lots of different I guess you could look at things like sweet potatoes are specific kinds of potatoes are also clonal plants. There’s types, lots of different types of clonal plants. I’m looking at search right now to see if there’s any specific ones that I could think about that you might kind of identify with really easily. Certain fungi are clonal. And this is a really bad article that I just clicked on because it doesn’t give me an actual list of clonal plants. So it gives me something completely different. But anyways, you get the idea. So this is where we’re talking about this as the basis and the foundation upon which we’re going to talk about right now. So let me share my screen with you so that we have the paper as we do every week. I feel like it’s still really dark I set up a light but I feel like I have very little light here. I have to set up my whole setup today has been a little bit crazy as I get ready for everything.
Okay, oh, that’s okay. So let’s move on. Here we are with our paper our paper is called again epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligent behavior in clonal plants. Ah, I only have one screen right now. So it’s gonna be a little bit trickier than it usually is. Okay, so this is a paper that has been written by let’s sell Alexandra p at Edina Gonzalez, and Alejandra Sumi Alejandra and Lena Gonzalez and Jonathan Rosenthal. This is from the Czech Academy of Sciences, which is kind of interesting. We haven’t we haven’t seen this and also the Ecological Research Institute in New York. So these are the two as always in the shownotes. I will include all the information about this paper itself and where you can download it if you’re interested in so let’s just get into it. environmentally induced epigenetic changes enables plants to remember past environmental interactions. If this memory capability is exploited to prepare plants for future challenges, it can also provide a basis for highly sophisticated behavior. considered intelligent by some seriously considered intelligent by some, we are still this paper by the way, I didn’t tell you the year because I know we always talk about it.
This paper was submitted in 2016 March and it was published in August of 2016. So I can understand a little bit why they are saying you know considered intelligent by some because this is kind of the tail end of the bigger discussion around intelligence implants. And of course, we’re still at the part where intelligence is being quantified like in qualified in other words, like it’s not just intelligence period, but it’s more like intelligence based on blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and there’s lots of qualifiers that happen in there. So we’re still in that era, but we’re near the tail end of it. Now. Not everybody is up to speed and by this point, there are a number of people who are very comfortable and talking about plants as intelligent. But you know, this is a, you know, young researchers that probably didn’t want to get themselves in trouble so they didn’t want to mince their words too much.
Anyway, it can. Let’s see, against the backdrop of an overview of plants intelligence, we hypothesize one that the the capability of plants to engage in such intelligent behavior increases with the additional level of complexity afforded by clonality. So in this case, is the fact of remember that by afforded we mean what is that is offered to you just because that thing is that way. So an easy affordance that I use the example of all the time is if you see a door, and the door has no handle, and you know you’re supposed to go through this door and it has absolutely no handle. Your first inclination is to push the door. That is an affordance. In other words, there’s no sign there’s no necessity for you to add anything extra. Just the fact that the door has no handle on it implies to you that it’s probably a push, as opposed to if the door had a really nice ornate handle, you would probably pull the door.
So these are called affordances affordances is a really important aspect of sociology of understanding how our mind and our cultures teach us to traditionally interpret things. And this can help us when we are creating and designing a lot. So in this case, the affordances the fact that they’re a clone, which means a DNA copy means that the behaviors that they express are shared from one to the other. They don’t have to be relearned because it’s part of their DNA sequencing. Or in this case, it’s part of what is being inherited from one to the other as the new clone grows. And this is the interesting part is they’re testing whether or not epigenetic changes. So nature or environmentally inspired environmentally accelerated changes actually get inherited from one to the other. And does that mean that the clone who has not just the DNA that’s that allows them to do something but also the epigenetic expression? of it because it’s a clone, rather than having to relearn the behavior and express the gene in that way? inherently have that as a starting point, which I think is a really fascinating conversation point from the perspective of I think about my own domain Hurrian Ness we have one of the letters that came to us from Falco, our spiritual founder, in the beyond, you know, that arrived had a really important statement that a lot of us have have not only appreciated, but come to really understand which is he said to us, you know, the next generation doesn’t have to start from the beginning.
They should start from where you left off. Which means that they shouldn’t have to go through all the struggles to learn things that we all had to struggle through and learn through in the beginning. Instead, they should start from the place we should start helping them to move from the place where that where we are today to the future. We see this also in Devon Hurrian art that many inherent art is inspired from domande Hurrian art, in the perspective of you should start with Domian Hurrian art as a form like you know, or any other kind of type. But you should start with the greatest expression of domande Hurrian art and build new art from that point on going forward. So this is kind of testing out that same idea ability, which is do clonal plants pass off what they have learned to the next generation, even though their DNA is identical, but they also pass on kind of what they’ve experienced and what they’ve learned from and relating to their environment and to the way that they’ve lived, and then pass that on so that the next generation has a kind of leg up is already actualized to what is the or they’re integrated into whatever that current environment is rather than starting with a clean DNA slate, so hopefully I didn’t make that too long. But I was trying to make it clear to get more faithful inheritance of epigenetic information and clonal plants in conjunction with information exchange and coordination between connected rabbits is likely to enable especially advanced intelligent behavior in this group.
So this is interesting too, because it’s the idea of if the plant is able to inherent and really be faithful so really follow through with what is that type of lessons that are learned that complexity, that level of evolution that has been around right that they arrived at information with exchanging information between the rabbits so kind of like the equivalent of well, why did you do this so that I better understood not just how you’re expressing it, but also how you got to that expression? Would that lead to more intelligent behavior because you’re already starting from a place of awareness? That is not a blind spot? Like I don’t just start out Dell. I don’t just start out on a place where I have to gather everything up myself. I think this is really interesting. We therefore further hypothesize that this behavior provides ecological and evolutionary advantages to clonal plants, possibly explaining, at least in part, their widespread success. I mean, Pendo is a great example of a really widespread success, but also things like potatoes and lots of other crops that were using ginger and these types of things.
Finally, we suggest avenues of inquiry to enable assessing intelligent behavior and the role of epigenetic memory in colonial species. Right. Let’s, let’s get into it. Okay. So introduction, although it has historical antecedents antecedents in remarks by Darwin, the most recent and no and not universally held characterization of plants as intelligent or Oops, excuse me. Why does it jump one hold on I’m trying to make a nice level of Alright there we go. Largely sorry help categorization plants as intelligent organisms is largely attributable to a series of publications by Troy Wallace talked about Troy Wallace so many times. Indeed, Troy Wallace arguments for plant intelligence coupled with counter arguments, which we’ve gone through all of these papers, to his viewpoint, capture the overall discussion on the subject quite well. In the present paper we propose investigation of a system that is likely to especially strongly display those behaviors that Chihuahuas and we would characterize as intelligent. Moreover, systems and this system is particularly well suited to address the arguments put forth to dispute plant intelligence.
Oh, to address those arguments. Interesting. Finally, we hypothesize that to this extent, the intelligence is manifested in the behavior of the focal organism clonal plants, it may in at least in part, explain the ecological and evolutionary success of their life strategy. Sorry, I really have to drink today because I have drank so little over the last like 24 hours especially compared to what I normally did. And so it’s like if I don’t drink something I can be. At least the at least the temperature here is very much in favor of taking good care of my throat. With its nice warm. Okay, first, a brief overview of chill Wallace arguments and the proffered rebuttals is in order. As he noted, the traditionally prevailing presumption that plants lack intelligence is largely due to methodological difficulties in bait biases and applying to plants concepts originally developed in the context of animals. We know this, we’ve talked about this so many times, in particular, because the traditional zoo centric measure of behavior has been in terms of widespread movement plants, in terms of what a movement scuze me in particular, because the traditional coma zoo centric measure of behavior has been in terms of movement, plants societal lifestyle rooted into the ground and different reactions timescale has probably helped create the widespread view of plants as passive and therefore incapable of behaving.
It’s a very, very nice way of putting it, let alone exhibiting intelligence. Similarly, Triloba has noted that because many plants responses to environmental conditions are manifested in terms of growth are through such cellular level processes as changes in turgor pressure. It is tempting to dismiss dismiss these responses as my page change as developmental or physiological processes. Rather than move away rather than behavior. So in other words, the fact that the way that a plant moves, in some ways is based on the change in the pressure inside of their stems. That’s what the turgor pressure is talking about the way that the sides and the pressure between the phylum in this zone going through and things of this nature, it is tempting to dismiss that as something that’s a physiological process, which I think is so hysterical because obviously if I was to not think about the human brain, and I was just to look at an arm, for example, or fingers, of course, the way that they move is based on the pressure of the contractions and all these types of aspects, but only because I can express that I’m thinking about movement and then I move.
Do you think of that as intelligence behavior, right? You don’t just think of it as a simple feels of those ofical Like, instinct, I tell you, I’m gonna move my finger then I move my finger. We cannot read plant lines. At least most of the scientists cannot read let me say this better. The general scientific community cannot read a plant mind in a way that is scientifically rigorous. Different than the way that we communicate with plants. So therefore, they can’t, they can’t fathom the idea. It doesn’t even come into their minds, that it’s possible that the plant is thinking to the body, Hey, move your trunk and then spend the next I don’t know whatever 12 hours slowly moving the stem or whatever the trunk and the next you know, 12 years slowly moving that stump, it’s like impossible to conceptualize it. That’s happening, but you can’t negate it either. You have no way of negating it, but yes, yes, yes. We struggle with that. It’s amazing to me, anyway. It is through such directed growth. However, given their societal nature, it is through such directed growth that plants can explore and preferentially exploit favorable environments akin to the movement shown by animals.
Therefore, for walas employed stenhouse is objective definition of intelligence as adaptively variable behavior within the lifetime of an individual because it is not a priority in applicable to plants. However, he did so with the understanding that behavior be limited to responses on the level of the whole plant, ie excluding direct responses of a single organ or tissue to the environment in which they were interacting. All right, see, remember I was talking about how we’re still at the stage where many of the definitions around intelligence have to have qualifiers, for example, qualifier. Along with many examples of intelligence, of intelligence, so defined he described various plant kept capabilities that makes such intelligence possible including plant learning abilities, and communication and decision making capabilities. For Wallace characterization of plants as intelligence was disputed on multiple bases, the most salient of which can be distilled down to the contentions that the concept of the individual is largely inapplicable to plants as they are not only modular but Oregon’s can exist on their own. So the idea of the whole this is goes to the conversation we had last week about when I’d actually I have to say a little side note here for a second.
A super, super side note, I’m gonna stop the show for a second. So here’s a side note. So last week, we talked a lot about the whole idea of like the individual and the conversations that Michael Holman Matthew Hall was having around you know, the individual and such like that. And he got me thinking so last Saturday, if you remember, unfortunately, not with me right now, but those of you have no and can kind of go back through the natural conscious community conversations. If you look for this you’ve had you’ve heard me talk a lot about no names or Senya. Right. So it’s Asendia. This mother in law’s tongue or snake plant that I had been working with in relation to movement of understanding a whole series of information through movement rather than words. So name for Sonya is in a no name because the decennia has told me that they don’t want to have a name because no name for Senya doesn’t want me to be stuck in words and things of that nature. So no name. So nothing interesting here was is in a teapot. This is a teapot I bought a long time ago the lid of the teapot broke and so therefore I turned the teapot into a platter planter.
And I love this planter and and no one interests me I decided to put up a whole new I don’t know what that would be called because it’s not really a stem the way this plant whole new leaf cluster. And being a plant that’s clonal actually very adept for this conversation. So put up this new stem and of course the the tea pot only has a small opening on the top so that that one was kind of getting stuck. And so it was interesting because when other than all the others the leaves come in and each leaf sort of grows really long and then the plant stays in this sort of bushy size. This particular one came up really fast and in order to adapt to the fact that it had very little room rather than putting out lots of leaves that sort of slowly opened and has like still that cylindrical shape and that mother in law’s tongues are our sleep plants have but but having it in a little bit more of space, put it up a very tight one that went really tall. So super tall, really tight. So the other day I got this message from an angel sending out that it was time to move this one piece because this one piece is now like this one stem cluster or is around it I guess it would be is now getting to like it doesn’t fit in this pot.
So I divided them into I divided key into two and since then I have spent I haven’t had I did not have time before I left to have like a dance session or movement session or a meditation session or anything in order to ask he about this particular information. But I am now freaking out in some ways in a good way. Because Is this still all moaning to Sonia? Or is it now no name for sending is one of them no named decennia and the other one is somebody else? And if so, which one of the two is knowning decennia. This is so interesting in even though I’ve divided plants before I don’t have a tendency to try to propagate my plants unless I get a message directly from the plant saying please propagate me. I do prune a little bit here and there or I try to get bigger pots. I try to very much listen to whatever it is that the plant wants. And it’s feasible we try to have a conversation about what’s feasible within my home I’m talking obviously about plants that live with me. So these plants this particular plant was very clear about no I want to be divided and I divided without thinking I just listening in this particular case and thought Oh yeah, and I actually had two pots which is very rare. I don’t you know whatever anyways, but now do I have to know named Person Yes. Or is one no name to send yet this is going to be something that I’m going to be thinking about a lot.
I’m going to see if I can connect remotely to known interest and do well and gone if not more coming soon. I’m going to be having a conversation with no name to Sonny about this. So just just so you know. Anyways, that was my long aside. It was a very, very long aside. But I found it a fascinating assign. I don’t know about you, but to me, it was absolutely fascinating. All right, we’re gonna go back to the paper, but if you have any ideas that like you’ve had a plant that you’ve divided, and what do you find? Are they both the same plants are they now taking on different characteristics? There’s one for you feel like the original where another one feels because in this particular case, both of these pieces are very different in shape, but they are both very much were present in you know, no names or Senya. So to me it’s not like either and I have to admit, I can’t because one of them is in the same position that they were before. It feels like that’s an interesting idea, but but I’m not really sure and I think that that’s just a mental bias. And anyway, so this is gonna be a fun experimentation. I’m really looking forward to this experiments with with this plant. Okay. Coming back to the let’s let’s see where were we sorry, I totally went off and think. Okay, so they don’t respond as individuals.
So that’s what we were talking about. And that memory such as it is exist in plants is similarly localized, ie there is no repository of plant wide memories and ally goes to a brain and simply consists of linear sequences of developmental experiences, and that unsurprisingly, given this summit to lose these limitations, plants do not make meaningful choices. This was all what was coming through as an argument against intelligence. So basically they’re not individuals, because there is no central repository. You can’t even consider the individual pieces to all have the same information, because there’s no one place where that information is being stored and they’re all coming to. And so therefore, there is no really memory analogous and there’s just a bunch of experience that that they have and it’s sort of like they have this experience and then they forget these experience. So that’s why they can’t make any meaningful choices because they have no information to base that those choices on in turn for a while was reboot rebutted these assertions by among other things, citing evidence that generally plants parts cannot survive on their own
Episodes related to AI Consciousness and Plant Consciousness
View the paper here
Latzel, Vít, Alejandra P. Rendina González, and Jonathan Rosenthal. “Epigenetic memory as a basis for intelligent behavior in clonal plants.” Frontiers in plant science 7 (2016): 1354.
If you have a paper, essay, article, or video you would like me to comment on, send it to me!