Fluctuations shape plants through proprioception

Plants constantly experience fluctuating internal and external mechanical cues, ranging from nanoscale deformation of wall components, cell growth variability, nutating stems, and fluttering leaves to stem flexion under tree weight and wind drag. Developing plants use such fluctuations to monitor and channel their own shape and growth through a form of proprioception. Fluctuations in mechanical cues may also be actively enhanced, producing oscillating behaviors in tissues. For example, proprioception through leaf nastic movements may promote organ flattening. We propose that fluctuation-enhanced proprioception allows plant organs to sense their own shapes and behave like active materials with adaptable outputs to face variable environments, whether internal or external. Because certain shapes are more amenable to fluctuations, proprioception may also help plant shapes to reach self-organized criticality to support such adaptability.