Study: Carnivorous Plants Create Small Magnetic Fields That May Be Used For Communication

ONE of the most famous carnivorous plants, the Venus flytrap ( dionaea muscipula ), is fascinating enough in itself, and now scientists have discovered another of its amazing properties – when closing the leaves, it creates a measurable magnetic field.

Recent research could help experts better understand how the plant world uses magnetic signals to communicate or warn of disease.

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Measuring magnetism on the “Corpse Flower”

Scientists already know that plants use electrical signals as a kind of nervous system. They suspected that they also used magnetism for that purpose, but it was difficult to record such a process, writes Science Alert.

In 2011, they tried to register the magnetic field around the unusual plant amorphophallus titanium, which is sometimes called the “Corpse Flower” because it has a very unpleasant odor. They used atomic magnetometers that can detect the least fluctuations in a magnetic field.

Since they noticed that the plant was creating an almost imperceptible magnetic field, they said that next time they would do an analysis on another, smaller plant.

Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum) - rare flower known for it's putrid smell
Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum) – rare flower known for its putrid smell

“Venus flytrap has multiple triggers”

“We were able to show that the action potentials in a multicellular plant system produce measurable magnetic fields, which has never been confirmed before,” said physicist Anne Fabricant of the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) in Germany.

“Action potentials” are actually rapid bursts of electrical activity, and a Venus flytrap can have multiple such triggers. Namely, if you touch, injure, expose this plant to heat or cold, then its action potentials are triggered.

During this study, experts used thermal stimulation to activate electrical activity and used a magnetometer to measure magnetic fluctuations. They measured a level of magnetic activity comparable to the strength of nerve impulses in humans, which is a million times weaker than the Earth’s magnetic field.

Study of signaling over long distances

“Apart from the evidence for this phenomenon, our findings pave the way for understanding the molecular basis of biomagnetism in plants,” the researchers write in the study.

“In the future, magnetometry will be used to study electrical signaling over long distances in various plant species and to develop non-invasive diagnostics of plant stress and disease,” they added.

A study called Action potentials induce biomagnetic fields in carnivorous Venus flytrap plants was published in the journal Scientific Reports.