I have, at present, a dozen plants. Can they think? I’m not sure they can. Can they communicate? You bet!
When a plant is in need of water it tells me I’ve been negligent by drooping leaves, yellow leaves, dropping leaves and dry soil. I’d have to be blind not to notice the ballet that goes on between waterings.
Trees know when they are in danger. When I lived in New Jersey, Interstate Highway 78 was cut through the Watchung Reservation, in which my house was situated. The houses below me were razed (including some that had been there since the 18th Century). My house was on a street above the highway (on the Second Watchung Mountain), and was spared.
But as the blasting continued and the trees were cut down, trees in the path of the bulldozers began to turn yellow. They apparently produce sounds that they use to communicate with other trees signalling imminent danger.
Are they sentient beings? In my book, yes!
I come from a family whose tiny village is nestled in a forest in Schwabenland, in southern Germany. Centuries ago we were tree worshipers. We brought the Christmas tree tradition to America in the Nineteenth Century, and it’s still going strong. When we died, we were buried in a pine box and a tree was planted over us, converting us into fertilizer. That’s how I want to go! No wasted nitrogen in that forest: all big, strong trees, to this day.
In 1963, I went to Affalterbach with my parents to look up my grandmother’s history. Unfortunately, after great fanfare, the record book in the tiny Rathaus (town hall) revealed that we had first arrived in a lovely basket on someone’s doorstep.
We then went to the cemetery with Herr Gall, a centenarian who was one of the last to know who all the trees were (markers were not in evidence). When my great-grandmother brought my three-year-old grandma to the US in 1881, she went to Chicago and looked up a Mr. Gall from her home village. He helped her settle and create a new life. He also was an undertaker in the New World, as his family had been in the old.
Every morning when I bow to my 17th-century Baby Buddha I am also bowing to my plants — and to my ancestral trees, who are watching over me wherever trees grow. When I walk on my oak floors, I am feeling the benefits of trees which died to provide me with a home and furniture. I talk to my plants to encourage them to grow and thrive, and to infuse them with the carbon dioxide they need. In exchange, they provide me with fresh oxygen. What’s not to love?