Given that there are many many aspects of our understandings that can seem unexplainable in our limited extent of knowledge, is it possible that trees can communicate on some sort of level that we may not understand yet? Many other creatures have strange ways of communicating. Is it possible/probable that trees can also have some form of communications that we have yet not understood or realized?

I am having trouble with the fact of why trees being conscious would be necessary (or if its necessary), evolutionary wise.

  • i believe that they dont, based of the fact that they do not have the receptor that transmit such activity.
    – user1983
    Jun 18 '12 at 6:39
  • nor the "brain" to interpret
    – user1983
    Jun 18 '12 at 6:40
  • Is there any chance you could clarify or develop the concern a bit further? What might you be reading or studying that has made this question an urgent or important philosophical concern for you? What sort of an explanation might you be expecting and what might you have found out so far?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jun 18 '12 at 14:02
  • Step 1: Define consciousness. Step 2: Ask yourself whether trees meet this definition.... In other words, you are approaching this the wrong way. First, the title question is pure biology.SE; I see one small philosophy (epistemology) question in the body. Second, consciousness defined as "communication" is... interesting; you might consider looking up the definition of consciousness and perhaps using a different word. Third, there's at least 2 distinct questions here, which I would say you should split up (are trees conscious vs evolutionary explanation) but the second is off-topic here.
    – stoicfury
    Jun 18 '12 at 14:08
  1. I remember having read about experiments concerning the communication of trees in a popular science magazine (when I was still a teenager). IIRC, the experiment went something like exposing one tree to a poisonous substance, and monitoring whether the nearby trees show (chemical) activity indicating that they were informed about the incident. It turned out that the nearby trees really get informed. Then the experiment went on trying to cut the communication channel. It was possible to establish that the communication channel was chemical (but I no longer remember whether it was above or below ground), even so the exact chemical substances couldn't be identified.
  2. I think it is quite probable that trees posses mental qualities like identity and intension. It may be important to keep in mind that although what we can see from a tree are its trunk, branches, and leaves, the most important part of a tree might be its roots. So a tree doesn't care too much about loosing a branch, but is quite sensitive to damage to its roots.
  3. There is no question that intentional actions influencing and reacting to its environment are evolutionary advantageous for trees. However, as many questions regarding trees are well suited to be investigated by the "normal scientific method", we don't really need to speculate metaphysically about them. Perhaps philosophy could identify interesting metaphysical questions regarding trees, but a big part of the answers should come from normal scientific investigations.

iam having trouble with the fact of WHY trees being conscious would be necessary(or if its necessary), evolutionary wise.

one of the big problems of consciousness is whether consciousness is evolutionarily necessary at all, even in humans. A great entry point into this problem which is related to to this question is that of philosphical zombies.

is it possible that trees can communicate on some sort of level that we may not understand yet?many other creatures have strange ways of communicating.is it possible/probable that trees can also have some form of communications that we have yet not understood or realized?

as noted by Thomas Klimpel plants indeed have evolved a complex biochemical system for information exchange through pheremonal sygnals such as ethylene, which signals ripening, released in high quantities by ripe bananas, and which can be used as a really effective way of coaxing other nearby fruit to ripen ..

There is also a long history both within and outside of indigenous cultures of people who subscribe to the notion of 'plant teachers', the idea that ingestion of psychoactive plants imparts knowledge of a spiritual kind through the alterations they produce in perception. The most common of these fall into the category of hallucinogens, and are referred to by many their modern day devotees as entheogens. A few of the innumerable people who write on this area are Terrence Mckenna, Dr Rick Strassman MD, Carlos Castenada, and Aldous Huxley. Seeing as your question relates to how it can be proved, not can it be proved, would entheogenisis constitute a legitimate method for investigating this question ?


  • are trees conscious?

The nature is very wasteful, however the solutions that are too wasteful have little chances to survice. In my opinion it is very inprobable that the creatures that can't make use of consciousness will have it.

  • how do you prove that they are or aren't?

How can you prove that your neighbour have consciousness? How can you prove me that you are conscious? How can you prove if Turing machine is conscious or not?

  • is it possible that trees can communicate on some sort of level that we may not understand yet?

We can hardly understand the way the other people communicate with themselves. The philosophical question about how to communicate with beings, who are not like us, whose communication is not like anything we know is stated in many books, see the St. Lem's Solaris - a vision of extraterral being who is trying to communicate with us, but every effort to understand this communication fails.


I believe a parallel and more interesting problem would be that of persons who suffer paralysis of almost all their muscles, in what is called "locked-in syndrome". When something like this happens, the big question is how to verify that the person is conscious? how do you know he/she understands what you are saying to him/her? in this case, consciousness will be verified through the stablishment of a common code, using whatever muscle the damaged person still is able to control (like blinking the eye). Watch "The diving bell and the butterfly" for a real story on this. If this communication is not stablished, it is rather impossible to say whether the person is conscious or not. In the case of chemical signs some trees give away, as well as magnetic fields stuff, this cannot be considered communication as consciousness, as they are purely physical/chemical reactions. The tree hasn't got a choice, this reactions will happen necessarily, whenever certain changes take place, there's no manipulation of a communication code. It's closest to Newton's laws.

  • if someone else is thinking about downvoting me for this answer, I ask you to please leave a comment, for I've been downvoted 3 times with no comments. Thank you.
    – Tames
    Jun 22 '12 at 15:36

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