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Thinking like a vegetable: How plants decide what to do - Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, University of Cambridge

It’s easy to imagine that plants don’t do much because of our powerful prejudice that equates action with movement. But plants literally build themselves out of thin air and water, which is pretty extraordinary. They collect carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil, which requires large surface areas above and below ground, and this means that they can't move. Because they can’t move, they have to adapt to the environmental conditions around them, assessing light quality, nutrient availability, windiness etc and adjusting their growth and development accordingly. Also because the can’t move, they have to be able to deal with predation without running away, which means having no unique parts, and therefore no central information processing centre equivalent to an animal’s brain. Instead they have to use distributed decisions making processes. My research is about how plants make developmental decisions without the benefit of a brain.

Ottoline Leyser’s Web Page