Intelligent Plant: What This Vine Can Do Is A Mystery To Science

Boquila trifoliata

Boquila trifoliata (Image By: inao / Flickr)

The south American Mimic Vine (Boquila trifoliolata) might seem like an ordinary plant at first. Actually you might not even notice it at first because its leaves look similar to other plants, hence the name mimic vine. But this vine can do things that are currently a mystery to science.

How mimic plants usually work
Plants may evolve to look similar to another plant if they want to blend in.  This could help them to confuse some predators into thinking that they are poisonous, or bad tasting.  Plants may also develop similar leaf shape because that is the ideal shape for their environment considering such things as amount of sun, rain, and wind.

What makes the South American mimic vine so amazing?
The primary factor that makes the South American mimic vine an amazing plant is that it can choose to mimic a number of different plants at the same time. You might be wondering how the vine knows which plants to mimic? or How the vine knows what leaf shape, size, color and orientation to use? Well that’s the mystery. No one knows for sure!

It seems that the vine mimics plants that it is growing on but it can also mimic plants that it is only growing near without any visible physical contact. Scientists currently do not know how this vine can sense nearby plants, and how this vine knows which leaf shape, size, color and orientation to use.


‘V’ identifies the vine, ‘T’ identifies the tree (Click to Enlarge) Image By: E. GIANOLI, F. CARRASCO-URRA/CURRENT BIOLOGY 2014

The theories
I have heard 2 theories that seem plausible but both of them are somewhat far fetched.

One theory is that the plant can chemically sense nearby plants. This in itself is not so hard to believe, things like this currently happen with other plant species.  The vine would have had to evolve a leaf-changing response to the many chemical signals that it gets from other plants, this is the part that’s hard to believe.  There would had to have been an evolutionary advantage to all the different leaf shapes that the plant can mimic otherwise this sort of evolution would not have taken place.

Another theory is that the plant can somehow sample dna from the other plants and use it itself. This is not seen in any life forms larger than bacteria.  This is a little more far fetched than the previous theory but it would explain why the vine can mimic so many different species of plants.

Hopefully soon the mystery of the mimic vine will be revealed but for now it’s an example of how amazing our universe is, and what mysteries still exist on our own planet.