Can Plants Smell? - Plant Science
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Can Plants Smell?

Humans need noses to smell, but plants don’t. They have the innate ability to understand odor molecules and change their behavior. Botanist Daniel Chamovitz, in his book “What a Plant Knows,” stated that they have an olfactory sense and can differentiate between smells leading to contrasting behavior patterns.


Most botanists would know that the dodder vine is a parasite and grows around tomatoes. It is a vine in small curls around the vegetable and slowly begins leaning on them and sucking their life by strangling.

We all know of it, but how do we say that it is smelling the tomato plant? To ensure that they understand what is happening, Dr. Consuelo De Moraes, a biologist and her colleagues at Penn State University, went forward with a fake tomato experiment.

The fake tomato experiment

She started by placing a dodder vine between an empty pot and a fake plant. The dodder didn’t react to either of those and grew straight during the experiment period.

They then went to put a real tomato plant in a well-lit condition besides the vine. It started leaning to the tomato’s direction.

To put its ability under the scanner, they darkened the environment. The result was the same. The final stages included hiding the tomato plant, but it did not deter the dodder away. It continued its leaning process. They even tried boxing both of them, but to no avail.

It was more than enough to prove that it can sense and grow towards its food. Dodders like wheat too, but have a higher affinity towards tomatoes. So when they placed it in between a wheat plant and the tomato plant, it showed keenness to grow towards the latter.

Dan Chamovitz concludes by exclaiming that wheat and tomato smell the same, but the latter has three chemical smells, whereas the former has only one.  It proves the ability of the plants to distinguish complex odors nonchalantly.

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