A plethora of previous questions have queried the existence of botanic (plant) intelligence and they all have created good solutions, but their still remains a even bigger problem to even the dumbest sentient plant: movement. The closest solution to the problem of plant muscles that are plant based are biological equivalents to hydraulics, while this may work for simple, slow moving organisms like glow worms or snails, I feel that this will not cut it for Groot. What is the botanic equivalent to animal muscles, in that they are both quick and strong.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is a paper on this. Can you be more specific about the problem you have? You want them to be faster? Stronger? More energy efficient? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, plants are quite fast 1 2. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 9:11
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A number of plants are capable of some fast action. Mimosa spring to mind. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turgor_pressure $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ Life on Snaiad has vertebrates with hydraulic muscles. $\endgroup$
    – Anonymous
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 12:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A note about hydraulics being slow: spider legs move via hydraulics, and I'm sure we all wish they were slow... $\endgroup$
    – Azuaron
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:38

4 Answers 4


There is no direct equivalent, as you say existing plants either move very slowly and in a permanent way (by growing towards the light) or have a limited movement such as in a venus fly-trap.

Carnivorous plants use a number of different mechanisms to move, but they could mostly be described as cells changing size and shape in order to cause the plant to curl in a certain way.

It seems that the most likely way a plant would evolve faster and more powerful reason might be hydraulics. The existing circulatory system for fluids could be strengthened and pressurized, that could then cause limbs to move in a controlled and powerful fashion.

The plants could have flexible joints and a rigid wooden frame either internally or externally. Hydraulics could then power the movements of the frame. The main issue would be containing and generating the pressures needed for effective hydraulics and gathering the energy needed to move.

The main problem for your moving plants isn't the actual mechanics of the movement itself. Its the fact that movement requires a lot of energy, far more than can be generated easily by sitting in the sun. For the movement to achieve things the plant needs a sensory system to detect the need to move, and a goal to move for.

You should also consider roots and similar. It's much easier to have a mostly stationary plant capable of occasional bursts of movement to capture a passing prey animal than it is to imagine one that can uproot itself and move around.


We slowly incorporated some bacteria into our bodies... perhaps plants could take a similar evolutionary track. It might not need muscles itself. By extruding chemicals, some plants are already quite adept at directing the insects that live on them. Two examples: Plant gets insect to spread spores: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110303-zombie-ants-fungus-new-species-fungi-bugs-science-brazil/ Plant gets ants to defend itself: http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/tropical-plant-uses-mind-control-chemical-to-make-ants-do-its-bidding.html L

There are a couple of sci-fi stories that take this concept further for even more adept control. A sentient plant might do very sophisticated signaling and reward validation with chemical excretions. The extreme end is a planet like Pandora in the movie Avatar.


This answer is an adaptation of what I wrote on this post, which explains how plants could evolve intelligence.

Right now, let's assume there is no equivalent to plant muscles; they would have to evolve to make Groot a reality. How could that happen?

Method A: Plants evolve in the same way, but with both muscle and plant tissue

Imagine a small, multicellular plant evolving in a liquid environment (where evolution is thought to occur). It will want to move around to reach light and nutrients. One solution for this is the mutation and development of muscle-like tissue to control the plant, allowing said movement. As the plant evolves, so too does the muscle.

Method B: Adapting an Organism with Muscles to Photosynthesize

An organism that dwells in sunlight mutates a form of chloroplast, and becomes more and more dependent on its chloroplasts to survive. It develops plantlike characteristics to use them efficiently, but keeps its muscles for locomotion. See this answer's Method B for a more in-depth evolution from animal to plant.

Method C: Symbiosis Between a Muscle Species and a Plant

Theoretically, your plants could evolve side-by-side with a muscular species that requires movement to survive; imagine a lichen, but with an animal instead of a plant as a base. As the organism becomes more dependent on its chloroplasts to survive, it may develop plantlike characteristics to use them efficiently. Again, see this answer's Method B for a more in-depth evolution from animal to plant.


Assuming plants couldn't move, you can make the sentient plants be in a sort of "hive mind".

Seeds could hypothetically move using stored energy reserves and colonize places as wished. Seeds that can slightly change their flight trajectory is not unthinkable, and you could make this easier by changing the climate on that planet. The atmosphere could be thicker, and with stronger winds.

In stark contrast to humans, plants could build stuff by taking its shape, then die. Sacrificing some for the good of others.

Of course, technological evolution in those conditions would take 1-2 orders of magnitude longer compared to animals that can move.


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