How many of us talk to our plants? I know I do, pretty much as I would to a pet or a small child, only one that doesn’t follow me around. Well, it turns out that they really are listening. People have said for years that speaking nicely to your house plants or garden veggies can produce lusher, healthier growth, but scientists never understood the mechanisms for plant “hearing” until recently. More importantly, scientists weren’t clear on why a plant would need to “listen” at all.
A recent study reported in the New York Times investigates the reasons why plants may have developed the ability to listen, or pick up the vibrations, in their environment. In an experiment conducted at the University of Missouri, scientists played a tape of caterpillars munching on leaves to one set of plants and then played nothing, or neutral noises, (such as the wind blowing) to another set of plants. Later, when they released live caterpillars by the plants, the set that had heard the munching leaves sound produced greater amounts of a protective chemical – and produced it more rapidly – than the other set of plants.
It turns out that hearing, or discerning the difference in vibrations caused by a predator, has evolutionary advantages — now the next question may be, why do some sounds please a plant?