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Scientists discover 'Brain' of Andrographis and how cognition effects germination

Andrographis Plant Brain Plant Cognition Senna

When to germinate? that's the question every Andrographis seed asks itself according to science. 

When the seed pod hatches in an explosion! Andrographis seeds fly up to 10 meters away in a projectile fashion from the mother plant, seeking new soil to colonize.

Now we don't know if the mother plant has the brain power to make the necessary calculations and aim it's babies into nurturing territory or not.

But, what we do now know, thanks to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is that scientists from the University of Birmingham have demonstrated that cells within the plant embryo act as a 'plant-brain' in knowing when to germinate the seed and when to lay dormant.

In a plant's life, the biggest decision is in knowing when to germinate, that's all it really can control from such an early age.

"Scientists showed that the 'decision-making centre' in a plant called Arabidopsis, or thale cress, contains two types of cell - one that promotes seed dormancy, and one that promotes germination. These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, an analogous mechanism to that employed by our own brains when we decide whether or not to move."

This was experienced at the Byron Bay Medicinal Herb Farm when I weeded an overgrown bed, which a season or two ago grew broccoli and a season or two before that grew a bed of Senna.

It was the Spring of 2016, I had the sudden urge to plant a veggie patch and after the initial weed and planting a few seedlings, I lost interest in veggies (The Mullumbimby Farmers Market is phenomenal for Veg) and I let it run wild. Before too long, weeds took over the patch and I let them fight it out to see who would win.  

We allowed nature to take it's course and the resulting crop we had in that bed for 2016/17 Summer was a total surprise, a thick plot of Senna. 

This is first-hand account of the 'Brain' of the dormant Senna seeds in action over several seasons (3-5 years).

Germinating too soon, and the Senna seeds would have been inundated by the abundance of weeds or worse may be damaged by harsh winter conditions; too late, and it may be out-competed by other, more precocious weeds.

The same seems true for the Andrographis projectile self-seeding mechanism. Sprinkle some seeds in a patch you think they'll love and weeds come up, allow the Andro mother to precision target her babies into fertile growing areas and they flourish. 

It's just one more aspect of the verboten field of plant cognition that homegrown researchers like Dr. Monica Gagliano, who's research is "In collaboration with various disciplines across the Sciences and the Humanities, my research aims at expanding our perception of animals, plants and more generally Nature. In the process of learning how to do this, I have pioneered the brand-new research field of plant bioacoustics and extended the concept of cognition to plants, re-igniting the discourse on plant subjectivity, sentience and ethical standing."

Click here to study the systematic and rigorous experimentation into the cognitive and sensory capabilities of plants.

Both plants and animals make decisions in response to the environment to maximize their fitness. Plants use dormancy in seeds to move through time and space, and timing of the transition to germination is influenced by external cues, including temperature. Here, we report the presence of a decision-making center within the root tip of dormant seeds and demonstrate that it shares a similar configuration as some systems within the human brain. Unlike in humans, where this spatial structure is used to filter out noisy inputs from the environment, seeds use this arrangement to harness fluctuating temperatures and stimulate the termination of dormancy. Variable inputs therefore act as an instructive signal for seeds, enhancing the accuracy with which plants are established in ecosystems. -- Alexander Topham et alia, 2017.


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