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Philodendrons like the one below often have big leaves. That’s probably why Cleve Backster used them in a number of his experiments. Ultimately, he showed that plants can read your mind.
Backster was one of the most well-known lie detector examiners during the 1960s. One day, he was sitting in his office, bumming around on Facebook (okay, this was before computers, so he was probably staring at his typewriter or something). Basically, he was bored.
He attached a lie detector to his Dracaena massangeana and decided to burn a leaf. That’s when something very strange happened.
The second he made that decision, before he even figured out how he would burn the leaf, the lie detector made an unusual pattern on the tracing paper.
He doubled-checked the equipment. He obviously knew how to read the results and there was no way this was a coincidence. The plant was reading his mind.
Let The Experiments Begin
With help from his colleagues over the next several years, he ran hundreds of tests on more than 25 varieties of plants, all confirming that plants are smarter than we think.
- He showed that plants will often intentionally faint when they sense they are being threatened.
- He conducted interviews with people, instructing them to lie part of the time, and the plants told him when they were lying.
- He showed that plants have a memory for different people, and that plants read the minds of their “caretakers” even from thousands of miles away.
Eventually, he designed an experiment that eliminated human involvement. He set up a system where shrimp were automatically killed by boiling water at random times, unknown to him or anyone else.
He had already learned that plants register on a lie detector when living things are killed, and sure enough, they picked this up, too.
He finally wrote up his conclusions in 1968 so other scientists could have an opportunity to try to replicate them. Over 7000 scientists asked for a copy of his results, which were eventually written up in various publications.
Is This All True?
Many scientists have criticized his research, while many others have supported it. Even the mythbusters, a modern TV show, tried to replicate the results without much success (afterwords, Backster criticized their methods).
But it seems Backster’s experiments have helped many people to regain some of the understanding that we used to have, that plants are intelligent beings that have thoughts and feelings.
I don’t know how much of it to believe, but I know that the plants – including those in our vegetable gardens and even in our homes – are smarter than we make them out to be. I’ve read many books that have proven this to me, and I do believe there’s something to all this.
At the very least, it seems very possible that your thoughts, feelings and state of mind all have an impact on your plants. You can choose to love them, or ignore them – or even pee on them, as an old friend used to enjoy doing for some reason (I don’t recommend it – it kills them eventually).
You can also check out a wacky old book that covers Backster’s experiments and many other fascinating (if embellished) stories about plants. It’s called The Secret Life Of Plants.
Or for a much more scientifically-rigorous book, check out the book What A Plant Knows: A Field Guide To The Senses.