Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | June 23, 2013

Trees do Maths

Photo © Nevit Dilmen

Photo © Nevit Dilmen

LONDON (Reuters) – Plants do complex arithmetic calculations to make sure they have enough food to get them through the night, new research published in journal eLife shows.

Scientists at Britain’s John Innes Centre said plants adjust their rate of starch consumption to prevent starvation during the night when they are unable to feed themselves with energy from the sun.

They can even compensate for an unexpected early night.

“This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation,” mathematical modeler Martin Howard of John Innes Centre (JIC) said.

During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store and estimate the length of time until dawn. Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to the human body clock.

“The capacity to perform arithmetic calculation is vital for plant growth and productivity,” JIC metabolic biologist Alison Smith said.

“Understanding how plants continue to grow in the dark could help unlock new ways to boost crop yield.”

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; editing by Keiron Henderson) See article.


  1. of course they dont do silly is that, they dont need to, they are in total balance with themselves and their Creator, no need for maths then, because every thing fits perfectly:-)

  2. I thought this was a great story until the last line which basically says “Monsanto is currently looking for ways to patent this technology”.

  3. Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of a Hedgewitch.

  4. I was about to make a comment similar to Todd’s. Enough said.

  5. I read this both with elation and disappointment all at the same instant.
    Elation that the sophistication of trees is recognised. And disappointment for reasons already mentioned by others. Where is the fasination and awe at the way trees have this innate ability. It has been replaced with the rather unfortunate question of how to best exploit this ability

  6. Many thanks for this article, Philip. As a plant lover, now trying to grow ferns inside, this is of great interest to me. I always enjoy your articles even though I rarely comment.

  7. […] Trees do Maths […]

  8. I can honestly say that this does not surprise me about the emerald community–that trees and plants can respond to their environment–they have their own language and way of being that has a wild integrity of oneness with the environment. I talk to the old apple tree in my front yard, and have talked to trees ever since I can remember. Luckily, I was met with encouraging response (from trees and loved ones, growing up).

    Monsanto’s “interests,” regarding the exploitation of wanting to patent this process is very disturbing, to say the least. Here, on Turtle Island, Winona LaDuke has been as the forefront of protecting the cultural and sacred integrity of the Wild Rice in the wetlands of Ojibwe country…to protect the genome of Wild Rice, the wild wetlands, and, as well, from the introduction and intrusions of any genetically modified/altered rice that could upset the natural occuring growth of Wild Rice. Monsanto has, unsurprisingly, expressed interest in patenting its genome.

    • Thank you Dandalf – what a lovely phrase ‘the emerald community’ 🙂

      • Thank you as well, and you are more than welcome! I have my own way of saying things 🙂 Be Blessed! Btw I love reading this blog!

        Oshki Manitou (New Spirit, New Life)

  9. Plants can comepe well with humans in maths and actually have chances to win….

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