Are You a Plant?

Some days, there’s nothing worth a few words, and other days are rich with content. Some seem full of grief and sadness, and others are funny and puzzling.

The alternative title for this post is: “What else that we think we know about our world is wrong?”

PIEZO proteins are responsible for the human sense of touch. Despite the importance of touch, these proteins were only identified about ten years ago. However, they are what enables skin contact to be converted into signals to the brain.

The news from Scripps Research Institute is that plants have these proteins as well, enabling them to sense the hardness of soil (and presumably objects like rock) around their roots and direct root growth. One protein in this class is concentrated in root tips, PZ01.(1)

So we’re not quite as different from plants as we thought.

We already have Simard’s research indicating that plants communicate with other plants through their root systems. (3) There may be other methods as well.(5) One possibility is that plants share our sense of smell.

(Think about humans on camping trips and how they smell after a week in the woods. Do plants simply turn up their noses, or do they summon bears?)

What else do plants do that we don’t know about?

Were the Druids correct in treated some trees as sacred?(6)

Is there a new, “no-plant” diet cult in our future?


  1. Seyed A. R. Mousavi, Adrienne E. Dubin, Wei-Zheng Zeng, Adam M. Coombs, Khai Do, Darian A. Ghadiri, William T. Keenan, Chennan Ge, Yunde Zhao, Ardem Patapoutian. PIEZO ion channel is required for root mechanotransduction in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021; 118 (20): e2102188118 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2102188118
  2. Scripps Research Institute. “Force-sensing PIEZO proteins are at work in plants, too: Proteins that enable the sense of touch in humans have an evolutionary cousin that helps plants grow their root systems.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2021.

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