February 7, 2013

Talking Plants

We’re sure you're familiar with the popular plant communication theory of the '70s. The idea was easily dismissed by scientists until recently. Now, the theory has been exhumed, re-tested, and the results are shocking. Scientists now confirm that plants talk, listen, and react to those around them. It looks like the ideas behind The Secret Life of Plants are true after all. Here is what we know.

Plants can Communicate – Through chemical and audible signaling, plants can, in fact, communicate with one another. This audible signaling is done through high pitched frequencies beyond our range. These frequencies spike in activity if the environment turns stressful or if one of the individuals is in apparent danger. On the chemical side, plants like cabbage emit a potent gas to protect themselves from herbivores. If one plant is seemingly “attacked,” it can communicate to other plants that danger is in the area. The plants on the receiving end of that signal will then produce toxic chemicals on their leaves to protect themselves. 

Sensitivity – Plants are not just concerned about communicating with each other, they’re also concerned about the environment around them. Plants are sensitive to environmental changes; in fact, some studies have shown that house plants in quiet, calm homes fair much better than plants exposed to loud music or high stress levels. One study even showed that the boiling of shrimp in a kitchen spiked sound frequencies emitted by nearby house plants. Were these plants unsettled by the death of another organism? The answer to this is still unclear; the only conclusion that can be drawn is that plants are certainly aware.

So, what do you think? Is your backyard garden aware of your presence? If you could detect their sounds do you think you would hear them communicating your arrival each day? Think about this the next time you’re irrigating or pruning; it will give you an entirely new perspective on “silent” plant life.   


Phil Goold is a retired landscaper of 30 years. He loves being outside more than anything else, except maybe pie. He enjoys connecting with other landscapers and gardeners because everyone brings something new and fun to the table. Connect with Phil on Twitter and Google+.

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