@Volunteers Beware that I am none of the biological magnates. Nor a philosopher. This is just a sign of curiosity. And, I want only an intuition that enables me to see the difference.

As far as I know, the growth of the plants and their metabolism is induced by Chemical laws and physical laws (govern matter and energy). Whatever, absorbing sunlight, photosynthesis, pollination etc are persuaded by physical and chemical laws. And, it is not surprising because all matters experience Physical and Chemical laws. The Food going upward in a plant is illustrated by Capillary Action. Pollination is influenced by wind and like that.

In my opinion, the chief thing which differs us from non-living things is the existence of 6 senses. At least, (various) animals have some of these. But as far as I know, plants possess none of that. So, after all, why are they classified in group of Living things? (Or, why plants' behaviour is not classified in Physics and Chemistry in stead of Physiology?)

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    $\begingroup$ First of all, plants do have all "feelings" in terms of their ability to response to environment . By your definition bacteria are dead, because they don't have a nervous system, but that is a very metazoa-centric view of life. There are many scientific definitions of life. I prefer a physics-inspired definition: life is a self-organizing self-reproducing system. Plants perfectly comply with this. $\endgroup$ – Eli Korvigo Nov 30 '15 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Please read the Wikipedia article about life. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Nov 30 '15 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Plants can sense IR light and adapt their above-ground growth accordingly. Chemoreceptors underground do the same thing for root growth. A plant is a living thing that senses, responds to the physical stimuli sensed, grows, reproduces and dies. The latter are referred to as the reproductive cycle. Never seen inanimate matter do all these things.. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Nov 30 '15 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is philosophy and a mere attractor of philosophical debate. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Nov 30 '15 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ The definition of life is definitely a question of philosophie. In the past however, we did make the effort to answer these questions by mainly focusing on describing the lineages of interest and not commenting too much on the philosophy part of the question. This question is similar to previous question about why viruses are not alive except that it is a lower level question. I think that it can be answered by listing a few life-sounds-alike properties of plants (as I tried to do). $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Nov 30 '15 at 20:38

Short Answer

Yes, plants are alive!

How to define life?

It is up to anyone to define what is living and what is not. In other words, the definition of what is living is arbitrary. Viruses are a common limit case (see the post why-isnt-a-virus-alive?).

What are plants able to do?

Now coming to plants, everyone seem to agree quite well on whether plants are alive or not. I think that you misunderstand what plants really are and that brought you to eventually consider them as non-living. Here is a short list of things you might want to consider about plants.

  • Plants have DNA (plants often have very large genomes compared to animals).
  • Plants reproduce
  • Plants evolve (wiki > Evolutionary_history_of_plants)
  • Plants grow
  • Plants have a rich and complicated physiology and metabolism (wiki > plants_physiology)
  • Plants interact with other species of the same species and different species.
  • Plants can communicate (chemical cues) with other plants.
  • Plants are made of cells. Their cells contain a nucleus and a mitochondrion (just like animals). They also have other double-membrane organelles than mitochondria.
  • Plants are more closely related to animals than they are to bacteria. Animals are more related to fungi than they are to plants. (Explore the tree of life by yourself on tolweb.org)
  • Some plants also consume organic material (wiki > carnivorous plants)
  • Plants get disease such as all kind of infection and cancer (wiki > Lists_of_plant_diseases)
  • Plants can be parasitic.
  • Some plants are motile (SE post > are-there-any-motile-plants)
  • Some plants are symbiontic (including endosymbiontic) and some are parasiti


You seem to consider senses as an important distinction between living and non-living things. Note that the 6th sense that we attribute to humans have a pretty bad semantics and one could count more or fewer senses. Anyway, plants have tons of sense. They are able to sense:

  • chemicals
  • gravity
  • light
  • moisture
  • infections
  • temperature
  • oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations
  • parasite infestation
  • disease
  • physical disruption
  • sound
  • touch


It would actually be quite complicate to find a definition that is not based on phylogeny or structural differences that would allow you to exclude plants but nothing else from the realm of what is considered alive. So, Yes plants are alive!


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