For intelligence lets adapt the definition from here:

  • Perception of the surrounding environment
  • Adaptation to environmental conditions
  • Communication (in the case of plants, through chemical secretions)
  • Social interaction (by sending and receiving chemical information) and cooperation for mutual health and safety.

Basically, I'm looking for the spices of plants that demonstrated very high sensitivity and responsivity to their surroundings.

Those intelligent plants are not necessarily the plants that can physically move in seconds like mimosa pudica, rather also those who show any kind of respond even to humans - if we accept some of the research that have been done in the past years.

Edit: It has been demonstrated conclusively can communicate: i.e., have the ability to send and receive signals. Just, for example, by "Below-ground communication" using chemical cues. Moreover, it has been also demonstrated that plants are aware of their surroundings: the roots can bend to avoid some obstacles. Yet another example of a kind of communication/awareness is the phenomena of Crown_shyness.

There are researchers that are not shy of using the term intelligence here (Some researchers even go further to suggest a kind of memory in plants).

This question adapted the terminology (that is used by some), and provided the reader with the definition and explanation that is too long for the title. I believe the reader should not be deterred here, as ultimately this question is not about semantics. The question basically asks if there is any kind of test or scoring points to distinguish those "intelligence behavior" between plants, as I believe that there are plants that are more "intelligent" than others - but I could not find information about this online.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site. Please take a tour and visit the help center. There you will find lots of good information about what sort of questions to ask, and how you can make a good question/answer. In particular, questions with "most" are likely to be answered as opinion and don't fit the stackexchange format well. We also ask that questions have some evidence of an attempt to answer them by the asker. If you rephrased your title to something like "what is the evidence for communication and intelligence in plants" then you might get a better response. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @bob1, I've taken notice and added some more information. For now, as I explained in the body of the edit, I prefer to keep the title as is. If someone believes he has a better title, he can be free to edit the title. $\endgroup$
    – discipulus
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Users might better give the OP (me) enough time to edit the question after requested before downvoting. or at least explain why the question was downvoted. $\endgroup$
    – discipulus
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ No point in worrying about downvotes, see this main-meta post regarding downvotes and comments. Now you've edited you're much more likely to get upvotes. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ there is no evidence plants can perceive their surroundings, plants ae not aware of anything. A plant no more perceives its surroundings then a a TV perceives its remote. individual cells can send an receive signals, adapt and engage in social behaviors, so you have not defined anything the simplest unit of life can do. you are combining several unrelated and basically incomparable metrics and asking us to evaluate their balance, which makes this essentially opinion. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 3:43

1 Answer 1


The plant genus Cuscuta (dodder, amarbel) might be the most 'intelligent' plant(s). It is based on an agreed definition of intelligence, observations on the plant and what the plant can achieve compared to other plants and without a neural network; although this is not a scientific fact and there isn't a scientific consensus on plant intelligence. They are parasitic plants that can attach themselves on a variety of different plants to hijack them for nutrition and can spread plant diseases as well. They appear to use different senses like smell, taste, touch to be able to interact with their environment and to find other plants/food.

Here is a study from PubMed Central titled The foundations of plant intelligence and I'm including some relevant excerpts that provide a summary, the definition of intelligence and some observations on the dodder plant:

Intelligence is defined for wild plants and its role in fitness identified. Intelligent behaviour exhibited by single cells and systems similarity between the interactome and connectome indicates neural systems are not necessary for intelligent capabilities. Plants sense and respond to many environmental signals that are assessed to competitively optimize acquisition of patchily distributed resources.

I consider that intelligence in most animals and plants is concerned with improved survival in the wild and thus in turn fitness.

Perhaps, the most useful summary is that of Legg & Hunter. They collected some 70 different definitions of intelligence and summarized them as follows:


(1) is a property that an individual has as it interacts with its environment or environments;
(2) is related to the agent's ability to succeed or profit with respect to some goal or objective; and
(3) depends on how able the agent is to adapt to different objectives or environments.

Observations on the parasitic behaviour of Cuscuta (dodder), indicates it performs analogous behaviour to Lymnea but without the need for control by a simple nervous system. Dodder is a typical parasitic plant in that it searches and locates host plants which in due course it exploits. Some 4500 angiosperm species exhibit varying degrees of parasitism.

The dodder seedling lacks a root. Consequently, it must find water quickly on germination. In this condition, it is clearly in a motivational state of search. The shoot circumnavigates and locates nearby hosts from the volatile organic compounds the host emits, as shown by time lapse.

Kelly offered numerous suitable hosts to dodder by tying them together and found a rejection rate of 50% within a few hours, indicated by the parasite branch growing away. The assessment period is thus completed in this short time and since contact is only surface in character, assessment is probably made of the volatile chemical signature of the host. Dodder is using taste like Lymnea and changing search strategy when the source is not satisfactory.

There is little doubt that a primary problem some biologists have with the concept of plant intelligence is the assumption that intelligence is limited to organisms with some sort of neural network. The observations above show that dodder is capable of equivalent behaviour in the absence of a neural network. Alternative methods of assessment exist in plants. Intelligent behaviour is not dependent on neural activity.

Trewavas A. The foundations of plant intelligence. Interface Focus. 2017 Jun 6;7(3):20160098. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2016.0098. Epub 2017 Apr 21. PMID: 28479977; PMCID: PMC5413888. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5413888/

Further sources:

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    $\begingroup$ dodder grows in the direction of certain chemical compounds and away from others and can habituate to signals, which all plants and indeed all cells do, so what makes dodder more "intelligent" the paper offer nothing that all know organisms cannot do. It essentially argue all life is intelligent. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer and suggestion about tags edit which I've adapted. This is a long article and I intend to read later this week. As I said some researchers prefer to use the term intelligence - I agree - but some might disagree and that's completely fine. The problem starts when people turn away from the given definition of the term (and rather focus on the title) - then the discussion is not fruitful for the actual issue at hand. $\endgroup$
    – discipulus
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ @discipulus I think it's wrong to think you can redefine a term without pushback; however you change the definition, terms used in an existing way will always carry baggage. The definition given is so far from the use of "intelligence" in context of animals. By that definition, almost all of biology becomes "intelligence", and therefore the term becomes useless. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause, (1/n) what you and others seem to be missing is that I'm not trying define a term for the sake of the definition. I care not about the term. if it helps, one might replace the word intelligence with the term "fjhdsfjhkds" and reread my question. That's for one. For two, and this follows if one says that this can be applied to all biology -- I won't object and will be tolerative - not necessary because I agree or not, but because it is not the point of the discussion. $\endgroup$
    – discipulus
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause, (2/n) Now, if we want to enter the discussion. First, bear in mind, that however strongly one resists the term intelligence - this precise term was used and is used by more than one researcher. So, we have to accept that at least part of the scientific community believes this term is appropriate. I have not seen appreciation for this fact here. $\endgroup$
    – discipulus
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 16:45

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