More On Trees

Are trees intelligent? We are how we define. In this week’s New Yorker (23 Dec), Michael Pollan takes a fresh look at the compare and contrast conversation over animal versus plant kingdoms: “The Intelligent Plant: Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora.”

At what cost do we hold the brain primary in a hierarchical view of consciousness, problem solving – in short, life? Picture two planets. On one, life forms with a torso and five appendages have evolved to invent marvelous technological tools, but the essential nature of the life form does not appear to have improved. Persuasion remains the name of the game. On the other planet, a similar life form appears to live in symmetry with the planet’s plants and animals (and, by extension, with one another), in a positive symbiotic relationship made possible by the nurturing of life sustaining partnerships and the recognition that all life contains the same kernel of consciousness, a kernel that may or may not be located in a central control system called a brain. But the artificial technology remains rudimentary. Is one planet smarter than the other?

In perhaps the most persuasive part of Pollan’s discussion, he asks, in response to the criticism that plants can’t think because they don’t have brains, no command center, where in the brain is the brain, where in the brain is this command center? It appears that the brain may function in much the same way as a plant’s root system.

In other news, the Toads Dec. 6 piece, titled “Trees of Christmases Past,” has been posted at the Berfrois site. Have a happy holiday diversion at Berfrois!

Meantime, we celebrate Christmas with this more on trees photo gallery. Click on any pic to view the gallery.


  1. … where in the brain is the brain? … poignant question.

    A lovely Christmas time for you and yours, Joe, ☼

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thanks, Ashen, and hope you find a moment of peace and rest from the Christmas week storms.

  2. Lisa Groves says:

    I Heart Your Trees.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hey, Lisa! Hope you are having a good reading holiday.

  3. Uncle Tree says:

    Ho! Ho! Ho! Me? Brains? LoL! :)

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Joe!
    ✟Peace always, Uncle Tree ▲

  4. Dan Hennessy says:

    Apartment trees — Google image ? Tut , tut , tut . Tree Hair Line — from the Wizard of Oz , right ? “…..brain primary in hierachical view of consciousness……….” way too cerebral for me . I’m opting out of anything intelligent — it may be my New Year resolution . Won’t read anything , for example , with the word rudimentary or metacognitive in it . Does a tree cogitate ?

    1. Joe Linker says:

      No Google images at the Toads. The “apartment trees” pic was taken here. “Tree Hair Line” was taken in El Segundo, against a baseball field fence, on the east side of the north sand dunes; I don’t recall any Wizard on hand, but in those days, who knows? Photo by Susan. But I understand your skepticism; many of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty, and are comforted thinking we are smarter than turnips, but no, I don’t think trees brush their teeth.

  5. Couldn’t find a spot to leave a comment on the About page, so I’ll leave it here.

    Regarding how televisions broadcast the same to all thus providing a bizarre sort of equality across group lines: They may broadcast identical information but the information received is anything but uniform.

    Perception is everything. It’s a proven scientific fact that the brain learns to automatically filter out anything it deems unimportant; we are receiving an exponentially greater amount of information through our senses than we are consciously aware of. And we teach our own brains this little hierarchy. Through focus and belief (arguably the same thing on neurological levels), we decide who lives and dies in our reality.

    What does a rich man see in a long stretch of highway that a poor man does not? What does a poor man hear in a car horn? What do women associate with the color white? Ask them. You’ll get a thousand different answers, even if it’s the same horn blasting from the same white car on the same stretch of highway on the same television show. We don’t see the world the way it is, we see if the way we are.

    Toads may croak in every living room but we are the gods of our own universe. We hold the remote.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thinking of Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception,” the function of the five senses not to let light in (information, input), but to keep it out. Which was a restatement of what Blake had said earlier, and why Rilke thought the angel would be crushing, because we can’t handle it all, so the senses help keep reality manageable. This is why Seymour Glass doesn’t make it; he sees too much. McLuhan knew Huxley, but for McLuhan, the “information [sent or] received” wasn’t as important as “the medium is the message.”

    2. Dan Hennessy says:

      Never met a turnip I didn’t like .

      1. Joe Linker says:

        Does that include rutabagas? How about radishes? Root crops.

  6. bristlehound says:

    I would have thought that the question of whether plants and Christmas trees could think, was a “No brainer”. The real question might be in fact be, “what is a brain”? From matter we are created and that matter goes on after death to form a further creation. It seems that the human race has such a great ego as to think that brains and thinking are exclusive to themselves and to some higher forms of animal. Amusing in itself because the brain generates ego. I often ask myself when I am looking at a beautiful landscape, if a sheep would sometimes lift its head from nibbling grass and, looking around sighing, say to itself – “Look at that mountain range. It is the early morning that brings such colour and I am lucky to be alive”
    The brain that we humans enjoy could be a fractal of a great universal brain. We could be playing a bit-part in the real story.
    Plants think and use a brain – absolutely. I understand this because Christmas presents were under my Christmas tree and Santa left a note saying that the tree needs watering. Santa would only know this by communicating with the tree at a higher level.
    Love your posts, they are so much fun and challenging. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thx for reading – good humor. “No brainer”; yes, “Moron Trees” – the whole thing(k) fraught (and flocked, sheep and trees) with irony. Cheers!

  7. Dan Hennessy says:

    I’ve seen the Bigfoot photo somewhere .

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Yeah? Refugio slide show, maybe, starring Little Foot and one of his Little Sisters. But some folks easily confuse a Big Foot glancing down after too sudden a suck on the holiday schnapps. I seem to recall seeing a scholarly study somewhere linking Big Foot sightings to local Schnapps shortages. I see you fixed your server; good work. Probably too many Danish Christmas cookies and what with the schnapps and all, the server needed a nap.

  8. todowithout says:

    I love the mushroom heart tree.

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