plant memory?

Beverly Erlebacher bae at
Fri Sep 10 15:48:44 EST 1993

In article <26qekf$oeq at>,
Michael Levin <mlevin at> wrote:
>     Does anyone know anything about, or have any references to papers
>on, memory in plants? I observed an interesting phenomenon recently,
>and started wondering if this sort of thing has been looked at at all.
>Here's what I saw. I recently planted a piece of a wild berry bush in
>my back yard. It is a thorny black-berry like plant. It kept trying to
>climb the fence and penetrate into my neighbor's back yard. Every few
>days or so, I'd go out back and take the branches that got through the
>fence and pull them out, back to my side. This went on for several
>weeks. All of a sudden, I noticed that it "changed its strategy".
>Instead of trying for the fence, all of the branches that were
>attempting to get over there, started growing downwards, and stuck
>themselves into the soil, and (as I found out when I pulled one up),
>put out roots. This was a really drastic change from before. So, I
>began to wonder if the lack of success it was having was what really
>caused this to happen. So, how about it - has anyone heard of plants
>changing their growth patterns based on repeated feedback?
>Please email to mlevin at
>Mike Levin

Ummm, this is normal behaviour for many blackberries.  The branches
get long and droop to the ground and "tip layer" themselves.  This
is one reason wild blackberry thickets so closely resemble barbed wire
entanglements (and spread out so readily).

If you go back to where you got the wild plant, you may find that its
clones and relatives are engaging in the same behaviour without benefit
of human intervention.  You can read about this sort of thing in gardening
books that describe the different ways of pruning and training berry vines.

As far as "plants changing their growth patterns based on repeated
feedback", you may notice that your average weed growing in your
average lawn will put out shorter flower stalks the more it is mowed.
I wouldn't regard this as "memory".

Beverly Erlebacher
Toronto, Ontario Canada

Disclaimer:  I'm a systems hack, not a botanist.

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