Corny conversations prove plants 'talk'
I talk to the trees, that’s why they put me away
Setting aside any jokes about Prince Charles and talking to plants, an Australian scientist has turned up evidence that plants can use sound for rudeimentary communication.
In a wonderful example of “why not test it” science, a University of Western Australia researcher decided to listen to growing corn plants – and yes, they “talk”. As the university’s release dryly puts it: “plants appear to react to sounds and may even make clicking noises to communicate with each other.”
Having first determined that young corn plants seemed to emit a clicking sound, UWS postdoctoral research fellow Dr Monica Gagliano – working with Professor Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol and Professor Sefano Mancuso of the University of Florence – then tested whether the plants reacted to sounds as well as emitting them.
By suspending growing corn plants with their roots in water, they determined that the roots lean towards a continuous sound emitted at around 220Hz, a frequency similar to that of the “corn clicks”.
Dr Gagliano puts her decision down to a passing thought: "Everyone knows that plants react to light, and scientists also know that plants use volatile chemicals to communicate with each other, for instance, when danger - such as a herbivore – approaches … I was working one day in my herb garden and started to wonder if maybe plants were also sensitive to sounds - why not? - so I decided as a scientist to find out."
Learning the extent of the role such communications play in plant biology is next on her research wish list. ®
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