I was really wondering this because in the script, Palmer burns Child's weed farm fearing that the plants were assimilated. If it can assimilate plants, how would the organism go about doing it? Quotes: "Don't get near 'em. The plants! They're alive. Those things can imitate anything..." "Palmer sprays them with flame."

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    As far as I remember, in the book it's stated that the Thing must maintain its mass. So it couldn't imitate just a single plant - it'd have to be all of them. Just how it would achieve this I can't figure. – Tim Apr 8 '18 at 20:54
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    In the 1951 version, the alien is a very advanced form of plant life. Although it can't necessarily imitate a plant. – Tim Apr 8 '18 at 20:57

Given that scene (and any others involving the pot farm) didn't make it into the film, its canonicity is highly suspect. But in any case, Palmer's opinion (if he had not been infected at that point) is nothing more than a guess about what might or might not be possible. "Better safe than sorry" is a good attitude to take under such circumstances.

Based on the film, the answer is that we just don't know. We have no idea what the Thing is ultimately capable of. When questioned about its capabilities, McReady puts the matter succinctly:

I don't know how. Because it's different than us, see? Because it's from outer space. What do you want from me, anyway?

(If I had to guess though, I would bet that if an alien could manage to metabolize or infect Earthly animals, plants should not be much trouble; plants and animals ought to be a lot closer than animals and aliens.)

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    I can see The Thing using assimilated plants as psychological warfare against intelligent organisms to induce paranoia. We already see imitations like the Norris and Palmer-Thing constantly accusing other humans of being infected. Humans and animals being imitations is scary enough, but can you imagine plants? – EddieMcPickle Apr 8 '18 at 22:42
  • I take it McReady isn't big on fan-service? – DCOPTimDowd Apr 9 '18 at 21:41

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