Features of Plants
The ability to measure time is an ability that one does
not usually expect to see in other living things other than man.
It may be thought that this is limited to man, but both plants and
animals possess a time-measuring mechanism, or "biological clock."
The Biological Clock in Plants
In the 1920s, when two scientists in Germany, Erwin Buenning
and Kurt Stem, were studying the movement of bean plant leaves,
they saw that the plants were moving their leaves towards the sun
throughout the day, and that at night they were gathering their
leaves vertically upwards and assuming a sleeping position.
Some 200 years before these two scientists published
their findings, the French astronomer Jacques d'Ortuous de Marian
had also observed that plants possessed such a regular sleep rhythm.
Experiments in a dark environment where temperature and moisture
were controlled showed that this situation did not change, and that
plants possessed systems inside themselves which measure time.
Under natural conditions, plants select certain times
for certain activities. They do this in line with certain changes
in the sunlight. Because their internal clocks are tuned to sunlight,
they complete their rhythmic activities in 24 hours. In other cases,
there are some rhythms which are much longer than 24 hours.55
No matter how long the rhythmic motions last, there is
one point that does not change. These motions happen to ensure the
life of the plant and the survival of the generations, and always
take place at the most appropriate time. And in order for them to
be successful, several complicated processes have to be completed
in a flawless manner.
of plants, which happens by itself, is no ordinary event.
Plants do not disperse pollen all the time. Poppy flowers,
for instance, give off pollen at times when there are
most pollinators about. Flowering in other plants happens
at particular times of the year. This time is the most
suitable time for flowering. Scientists describe this
timing mechanism in plants as the biological clock.
For example, in most plants flowers open at a particular
time of year, i.e. at the best possible time. Plants' clocks, which
regulate this time, also calculate the duration of sunlight falling
on the leaves. Every plant's biological clock calculates this period
in accordance with the plant's particular features. No matter what
the calculation, the flowers open at the most appropriate time.
As a result of research into the regulation of time in the soya
bean, it was seen that, at whatever time these plants are sown,
they open their flowers at the same time of year.
use this perfect sense of timing in many of their functions, not
just opening flowers. For example, it causes the time the poppy
flower disperses its pollen to coincide with the days and hours
when pollinators are most prevalent. And these days and hours vary
from plant to plant. But at the end of the day, with this time regulation,
every plant disperses its pollen in a manner guaranteed to give
the best results. Poppy flowers disperse their pollen in July and
August between 05:30 and 10:00 in the morning. That is the time
is that bees and other insects emerge to look for food. At this
point the flower has to include in its calculation not just its
own characteristics, but also those of other living things, down
to the finest detail. The plant must have accurate knowledge of
the time when the creatures which will fertilize it emerge, the
length of the journey they will undertake, and the times they feed.
In such a situation the following question comes to mind: Where
in the plant is this clock, which possesses all this "information,"
which does all the necessary calculations, analyses the features
of other creatures, and works in a way reminiscent of a computer
centre? Scientists believe that biological clocks in living things
other than plants generally come into existence as an effect of
the pituitary gland. But where the perfect time measuring system
is in plants is still a mystery to them.
This clearly indicates a superior intelligence and power
which establishes and controls the timing of all plants' different
activities. God shows us proofs of His creation with His superior
power and infinite intelligence everywhere, and expects us to draw
conclusions from them.
Defence Strategies in Plants
Plants also have to defend themselves from their enemies
in certain ways. This defence varies with the species. For example,
some plants give off diverse secretions against parasites and insects
and fight their enemies that way. They display a wide variety of
strategies in using these poisonous chemical secretions, which is
their number one weapon. For example, toadstools and cucumbers have
poisonous tips, and these go into operation at the moment of attack.
Another example of this fully equipped war is found in plane trees.
With the help of a special liquid which it exudes from its leaves,
the plane tree systematically poisons the soil under its trunk,
so much so that not even the smallest blade of grass can grow in
it. Although it contains this poisonous material within its own
body, the plane tree itself is not harmed by it.
Caterpillars are one of this cornplant's
worst enemies. When attacked, the plant gives off a chemical
secretion to summon to its aid wasps which will kill the caterpillars.
Plants, which have no legs to carry them away if they
are attacked and no organs to fight with, have many defence mechanisms
which respond to their enemies other than their secretions. There
is even the ability to communicate within these mechanisms. Some
plants give off a secretion from the place where they are bitten,
harming an insect's digestive system or giving it a false feeling
of fullness. At the same time, the leaf gives off a kind of acid,
known as jasmonic acid from the damaged part, thus warning other
leaves so that they can be on the defensive.
To defend themselves, corn and bean plants use parasitic
wasps just like mercenaries. When a caterpillar visits their leaves,
these plants draw wasps to the spot by giving off a special secretion.
The wasps then leave their larvae on the caterpillars which have
attacked the plant. The growing larvae then cause the death of the
caterpillar, thus rescueing the plant. Some plants contain allelochemicals,
that is, toxis compounds in their structures. These have effects
which are sometimes attractive to animals and insects, sometimes
frightening, sometimes causing allergic reactions, and sometimes
For example, butterflies avoid plants of the group cruciferae
(the mustards) cannot approach heather plants, because their flowers
contain a toxic substance called sinigrin in their defence mechanisms.
For this reason, butterflies forage avidly among the umbelliferae,
because they know that these do not carry poison. How butterflies
could have learned to distinguish between them is also a question
awaiting an answer. It is impossible for the butterfly to have learned
this from experience. Tasting the plant could mean the butterfly's
death. In that case, the butterfly must come by this information
in some other way.
Maples', and particularly sugar maples', defence planning
for the protection of their leaves and shoots from harmful living
creatures is usually much more effective than the insecticides human
beings produce. Although the sugar maple has very sugary water in
its trunk, it sends a substance called "tannin" to its leaves. This
is a substance which makes insects ill. Insects, having eaten the
leaves containing tannin, go up to the uppermost leaves, which contain
less tannin, to escape. But the uppermost leaves are where birds
go most. The insects which flee there are then hunted by birds.
Thanks to this strategy, the sugar maple is saved from the depredations
of insects with little harm done.56
The passion vine of Central and South America, is an
ideal kind of food and most attractive to the caterpillars of the
black, yellow and red heliconius butterfly. An adult female always
lays her eggs on this particular vine, so that as soon as her offspring
hatch they can start feeding on this delicious food. But here there
is a very important point to be made. These butterflies check the
leaves of the plant very carefully before laying their eggs. If
she finds eggs like hers already deposited on the vine, then they
do not select that place, but go in search of another plant, for
there may not be enough food.57
Insects' preference lying in that direction is quite
a big advantage, because the passion vine takes advantage of the
insects' choosy nature to protect itself from attack.
Some types of vine plant form little green nodules on
the upper parts of their leaves. Other species develop little marks
in colours resembling butterfly eggs on the bottom parts of the
leaves, where they meet the branch. Caterpillars and butterflies
which see this think that other insects have laid their eggs before
them and abandon the plant without laying their eggs on it, and
begin looking for new leaves.
The vine plant, which protects its leaves by such an
unbelievable method, is a plant which emerges from the soil everyone
knows and consists of a dry branch and leaves. The plant possesses
no intelligence, memory, or identification skills. It is totally
impossible for it to know the features, preferences, and egg shape
of an insect, a creature completely different to it. But as we have
seen, the hanging plant knows under what circumstances an insect
will abandon laying its eggs and head off for another plant; furthermore,
it creates patterns which resemble those eggs on its own leaves,
and makes a number of changes. Let us think, what a vine plant has
to do to imitate the eggs of any insect. Imitation is a skill requiring
intelligence. So the plant must have intelligence, it must see and
understand these eggs and store them in its memory. Then it must
develop a defence mechanism by combining various artistic abilities
with these features, bringing about certain changes in its own body.
Not one of these things, of course, can be brought about by the
plant itself, nor as the result of various coincidences. The truth
is that the hanging plant was "created" in possession of this characteristic.
This is a defence system specially given to it by God. God, who
plans everything down to the finest detail, has met the needs of
all plants in the world wherever they are found. God is the ruler
of everything. He knows everything that goes on in the universe.
God states this truth in a verse:
He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth.
(Surat as-Sajda: 5)
A Few Examples of Interesting Plants
When the arum lily is ready for fertilization, it begins
to emit a sharp-smelling ammoniac gas (NH3). The flower has a most
interesting structure. The region where the pollen lies is inside
and at the bottom of a white-leafed structure, and is invisible
from the outside. For this reason it is not enough just to give
off a scent to attract insects' attention. When the pollen is ready
for fertilization, as well as giving off a scent, the lily also
warms up the outer part of the flower. This scent and warming, which
only happen on one day, and in the hours of daylight, are very attractive
to insects. Scientists, trying to discover how this warming and
scent come about, discovered that an acid emerges as the result
of a speeding up of the plant's metabolism. This substance, known
as glutanamic acid, creates the warming and scent given off by the
plant as the result of its being broken down by chemical processes.
Thanks to this, insects come to the flower. But their quest is not
over, because the arum lily pollen is at the bottom, in little closed
sacks. The flower is prepared for this, too. Because of its oily
outer surface, the insects which come slide down inside the flower
and cannot climb back up the slippery walls. In the place where
they have landed, there is a sugary liquid created by the flower's
female organs. Furthermore, the little sacks containing the pollen
open up at night and the insects get caught in them, which obliges
them to spend the night inside the flower. In the morning, thorns
on the surface of the flower bend inwards, to serve as a ladder
for the insects to climb up. As soon as the insects climb up the
ladder and regain their freedom, they go to another lily, carrying
their load of pollen, to fulfil their function as pollinators.58
The passion flower, with its interesting beauty, can
fight off caterpillars, its enemies, by virtue of tiny needles
on the surface of its leaves. These needles enter the body of
newly hatched caterpillars at the slightest change in position.
In this way the passiflora flower takes precautions against any
harm from caterpillars, even before they are born!59
Some beautiful things in the environment become visible
in the most striking way. Snowbells, protected in winter by being
frozen under a layer of snow, open their flowers in the spring when
the snow melts. This carnival of beauty and colour emerging from
the snow is just one example of the perfection and splendour of
The living stones you can see in the picture are really
the fleshy leaves of a plant, hidden beneath the ground. The stone
cactus plant is not a real cactus at all, and when its flowers
are not open they are indistinguishable from rocks. 60
Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant) has a very interesting
defence system. When the tip of the leaflets of the plant are gently
squeezed, within a few seconds they collapse alongside the leaf
stalks, and even the stalks themselves eventually droop into a relaxed
position. If whatever is troubling the leafy part of the plant persists,
it makes a second movement downwards, which exposes the sharp thorns
on the stems. This is enough to see insects off. The mechanism that
brings about this reaction in the plant is triggered by minute electric
currents, similar to those that pass along the nerves in the human
body. The plant's reaction is not as fast as ours. The electric
signals, transmitted along the ducts that carry its sap, can travel
30 centimetres in one or two seconds. The warmer the temperature,
the quicker the reaction will be. The base of each leaflet, where
it joins the stem, is greatly swollen. The cells within are filled
tight with liquid. When the signal arrives, those in the lower half
of the swelling immediately discharge their water which is equally
swiftly taken up by those in the upper half. And the leaf collapses
downwards. Thus, as the signal travels along the stem, the leaflets
fold up one after the other like a line of falling dominoes. After
a defensive move of this kind, the plant pumps up its cells, and
it takes 20 minutes for the leaves to open again.61
John King, Reaching for The Sun, 1997, Cambridge University Press,
Bilim ve Teknik Dergisi (Science and Technology Journal), March
David Attenborough, The Private Life of Plants, Princeton University
Press, Princeton, New Jersey, p.66
David Attenborough, The Private Life of Plants, Princeton University
Press, Princeton, New Jersey, p.67
Dr. Herbert Reisigh, The World of Flowers, The Viking Press, New
York, 1965, p.94
Michael Scott, The Young Oxford Book of Ecology, Oxford University
Press, 1995, p.95
Malcolm Wilkins, Plantwatching, New York, Facts on File Publications,
1988, p. 141-142