The Intelligence of the Flowers

The Intelligence of the Flowers
“I WISH merely to recall here a few facts known to every botanist. I have made not a single discovery; and my modest contribution is confined to a few elementary observations. I need hardly say that I have no intention of reviewing all the proofs of intelligence which the plants give us. These proofs are innumerable and continual, especially among the flowers, in which the struggle of vegetable life towards light and understanding is concentrated.

Though there be plants and flowers that are awkward or unlucky, there is none that is wholly devoid of wisdom and ingenuity. All exert themselves to accomplish their work, all have the magnificent ambition to overrun and conquer the surface of the globe by endlessly multiplying that form of existence which they represent. To attain this object, they have, because of the law that chains them to the soil, to overcome difficulties much greater than those opposed to the increase of the animals. And therefore the majority of them have recourse to combinations, to mechanical contrivances, to traps, which, in regard to such matters as machinery, ballistics, aerial navigation and the observation of insects, have often anticipated the inventions and acquirements of man.

It would be superfluous once more to trace the picture of the great systems of floral fertilization: the play of stamens and pistil, the seduction of perfumes, the appeal of harmonious and dazzling colours, the concoction of nectar, which is absolutely useless to the flower and is manufactured only to attract and retain the liberator from without, the messenger of love — bee, humble-bee, fly, butterfly or moth — that shall bring to the flower the kiss of the distant, invisible, motionless lover. . . .

This vegetable world, which to us appears so placid, so resigned, in which all seems acquiescence, silence, obedience, meditation, is, on the contrary, that in which impatience, the revolt against destiny are the most vehement and stubborn. The essential organ, the nutrient organ of the plant, its root, attaches it indissolubly to the soil. If it be difficult to discover among the great laws that oppress us that which weighs heaviest upon our shoulders, in the case of the plant there is no doubt: it is the law that condemns it to immobility from its birth to its death. Therefore it knows better than we, who disseminate our efforts, against what to rebel first of all. And the energy of its fixed idea, mounting from the darkness of the roots to become organized and fullblown in the flower, is an incomparable spectacle. It exerts itself wholly with one sole aim : to escape above from the fatality below, to evade, to transgress the heavy and sombre law, to set itself free, to shatter the narrow sphere, to invent or invoke wings, to escape as far as it can, to conquer the space in which destiny encloses it, to approach another kingdom, to penetrate into a moving and active world.”...


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