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German Artist Manipulates Plant Roots to Grow in Intricate Visually-Striking Patterns

Inspired by Charles and Francis Darwin’s theory on plant intelligence, German artist Diana Scherer managed to successfully coerce the roots of various plants to grow in specific patterns. The results of her work are simply breathtaking.

In his book, The Power of Movements of Plants, Charles Darwin argued that while plants are not capable of moving from the place where they are rooted, their roots don’t just grow passively, but actively observe their surroundings, navigating in search of water and certain chemicals. He also refers to roots as plants’ brain-like organ, suggesting that they are actually a lot more intelligent than most people think.

Based on Darwin’s controversial “root-brain” hypothesis, Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer conducted an artistic experiment where she attempted to coerce plant roots to grow in intricate patterns, sometimes becoming interwoven into stunning living carpets.

Scherer grew oat and wheat in specially-designed underground templates that guide the plants’s roots to grow in a specific pattern as they search for the nutrients they need to survive. With the help of biologists and ecologists from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, the German-born artist successfully “domesticated” plant roots to create some of the most fascinating living works of art in history.

“In his book The Power of Movements of Plants, he describes how roots do not passively grow down, but move and observe. A root navigates, knows what’s up and down, observes gravity and localizes moisture and chemicals. Darwin discovered that plants are a lot more intelligent than everybody thought,” Diana Scherer writes. “For contemporary botanists, this buried matter is still a wondrous land. There is a global investigation to discover this hidden world. I also want to explore it and apply the ‘intelligence’ of plants in my work.”

Once the plant roots have finished weaving and braiding themselves beneath the ground, Scherer unearths the molds and photographs the intricate living tapestries.

For more incredible plant art, check out the work of Gavin Munro, a UK-based designer who molds young trees into living furniture, and the photo-realistic grass portraits of Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey.

Photos: Diana Scherer