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I understand this might depend on the types of vegetables, but is there an average or studied specifics? Does it die immediately? Is there a way to precisely diagnose death in plants? If so, what are the conditions for it?

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Great question :-) –  Poshpaws Feb 2 '12 at 10:29

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up vote 26 down vote accepted

The short answer is that as long as the vegetable/fruit is fresh looking - i.e. the cells have not disintegrated - they will be respiring, many cells will be functioning quite normally, and the plant is still technically alive. In cases where the part of the plant we treat as a vegetable is a part intended for reproduction (e.g. a seed, or a tuber like a potato) the plant will keep growing.

The point at which the plant dies is not clearly defined like it is in animals, but generally if you can still eat it, it's still alive.

Death in plants is quite different from that in animals - we refer to it as senescence. The key difference is that it happens to tissues and organs which can die and separate from the organism. Individual leaves can die without the plant's health being affected. Once this has happened to all the parts, the organism is considered dead, but if there is any respiring tissue left, it's still alive.

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Thank you for the answer. As a followup question: when you say " the cells have not disintegrated - they will be respiring, many cells will be functioning quite normally, and the plant is still technically alive", how dos this differ from animals? Is it the case that supplies for plants are distributed to cells in a different way, in such a way that if the animal's death occur, no nutrients will reach the cells and therefore they will all die together with the animal? –  Hector Feb 6 '12 at 1:16
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@Hector That's exactly right: animals generally rely on the coordination of their processes by a central system, involving for example the nervous system and the circulatory system. Those systems are vulnerable to interruption, and that's what we call death in animals. Plants on the other hand do not have their essential processes coordinated centrally; they are controlled by environmental forces (gravity, thermodynamics, etc.) which generally are not subject to sudden termination. –  Richard Smith-Unna Feb 6 '12 at 12:12
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To continue.. Because plants grow iteratively, by repeatedly generating similar parts, there is no individual organ which is essential to the functioning of the rest. Contrast that with the determined growth of animals, where there is one head and if the head is removed, nothing else can happen. The growth pattern and the control system are interrelated. –  Richard Smith-Unna Feb 6 '12 at 12:14
    
Very interesting. Thank you again for answering. –  Hector Feb 9 '12 at 22:46
    
@Richard Smith, that is a very good answer, and I would vote it up, but unfortunately, I used all of my votes for today. Is the fleshy part of fruit alive? –  J. Musser Feb 21 '12 at 2:57

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