back to article Corny conversations prove plants 'talk'

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 …


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  1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Eccles? Is that you?

    Maybe John Wyndham wasn't that far off. Don't triffids also click to each other?

  2. Ketlan


    If plants can communicate, maybe they can learn to spell such complex words as 'rudimentary' using Morse.

    'Maybe John Wyndham wasn't that far off. Don't triffids also click to each other?'

    They did and John Wyndham was brilliant.

  3. Lucky2BHere

    Accept it

    Sure, plants communicate to each other all the time. Makes total sense. We seem to want a very clean divider between plants and animals, most likely because we don't want to see ourselves as unimportant. Bees dance for each other, other small critters secrete... the list is endless. Why in the world would that be any different for plants?

    There was a recent study in GB that determined when one plant was injured it warned the neighboring plant to watch the eff out. Not with long words (or short ones), but with a gas we humans couldn't detect without special equipment.

    Going a bit out on a limb, here, I would posit the wind carries "messages" all the time to far reaches of earth, and they land on the right "ears" with (probably) surprising regularity. Plants already use the wind for basic survival needs. You know, pollination. That in itself is still not entirely understood, and it's because of the same level of ignorance we have about so many living things out there. We've a lot to learn.

    Humans - understandably - see things through a particularly human filter and are missing most of what goes on in the universe. Thank goodness, too. We'd be immediately overwhelmed - and destroyed - by the cacophony and data avalanche. Everything living has its own filters for the same reason. I would also think one day our definition of what is living will expand, too.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Accept it

      I'm not at all overwhelmed, nor do I find it to be a cacophony or a "data avalanche". Rather, I use my senses to learn how to best prepare & eat it.

      Every single day of my life, I give thanks that I'm an omnivore.

      I think I've accepted it :-)

    2. LosD
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Accept it

      There was a recent study in GB that determined when one plant was injured it warned the neighboring plant to watch the eff out."

      But what is the purpose? What can the plant do to defend itself?

      1. bharq

        Re: Accept it

        "But what is the purpose? What can the plant do to defend itself?"

        some plants are known to increase the level of toxins in their leaves when they receive such signals - I believe this was observed in oak trees when one of them emitted signals that he (she?) was infected by a certain beatle

        1. sgb

          Re: Accept it

          Was this a recent study? If so it'd have to be Ringo or Paul.


    3. Yesnomaybe

      Re: Accept it

      Got some doubts about that one. You could say mammals, humans for example, when attacked or injured, will spray a red fluid around them, to act as a warning to others.

  4. Hilmi Al-kindy

    Those who are vegetarians because they don't want to eat something sentient

    What will those who are vegetarians because they are too squeamish to eat something sentient do? I can understand and respect being vegetarian or vegan for religious reasons, but for those who are just horrified by the thought of eating an animal, I guess they will be down to eating synthetically generated food. Either that or they will have a total break down and head for the outback steak house!

    1. Mikey

      Re: Those who are vegetarians because they don't want to eat something sentient

      IIRC, one of the big tests for sentience is recognising ones-self in a mirror. I'm pretty sure plants might just fall at that particular hurdle, alas.

      Still, a foodplant that screams as you eat it would be such a great trick to play on them pesky self-rightous veggies and vegans...

    2. Some Beggar
      Thumb Down

      Re: Those who are vegetarians because they don't want to eat something sentient

      There's an enormous gap between reacting to sound or light or chemicals in the way that plants do and being sentient.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Those who are vegetarians because they don't want to eat something sentient

      Relevant to your interests:

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're talkative tonight...

    Plus one for the Day of the Triffids references. Coincidentally, I'm just re-reading it at the moment, for the zillionth time. Wyndham fans should also check out "The Kracken Wakes" for an even better [IMNSHO] apocalyptic tale, with presciently modern day themes.

    Back on-topic, I wonder what the point in these inter-plant messages is? If Harold the turnip is screaming "Help! Herbivore approaching!" what are the the other turnips supposed to do about it; form a defensive circle? flee? It's not like plants can pick up their roots and run away... or are we back in John Wyndham territory again?

    1. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: They're talkative tonight...

      Not many remember that the cause of the blindness and plague was orbiting nuclear and biological weapons. The Triffids are really incidental to the story, it's really about the breakdown of society as is happening in Libya etc.

      In "The Midwich Cuckoos" the political parties are trying hard to loose the election so as not to be the ones that have to nuke Southampton. I often wonder if they have a similar problem today.

      Great author!

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: They're talkative tonight...

        Surely there are many votes in nuking Southampton. I'm sure it would play well north of Watford, and Portsmouth has several marginal constituencies from memory...

        'The Kraken Wakes' is an excellent book. If my copy wasn't currently in storage, I'd dig it out and quote "The Boffin's Lament" the next time that someone complains about El Reg's use of the word boffin.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how often does corn grow with its roots in water in the wild anyway?

    And how is a constant tone similar to an intermittent transient pulse? And what were the relative power-levels of the signals?

    They have shown that plants make sounds. They have shown that vibrations (aka sounds) can affect plants. But speculating that this is any kind of communication is hugely premature.

    Hell, consider my experiment: beatles have been observed to fart. And if you put them in a strong breeze, which is kind of like a fart, they tend to will move in the direction it is blowing! Therefore beatles are talking to each other in fart language to tell each other which way to go!

    I'll bet this one turns out to be nothing, on further investigation, apart from a premature, breathless and hyperbolic press release.

    1. Paul Westerman


      Aw Ringo, crack a window will ya?

  7. AndrueC Silver badge

    Oh FFS. My tomato plants lean toward the light. That doesn't mean they are trying to tell me to turn them round.

  8. Captain Hogwash

    The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes

  9. LinkOfHyrule

    "so I decided as a scientist to find out."

    I've used that excuse in the bedroom many a time!*

    *please note I don't need therapy, my other half is also a scientist.

  10. Gerry Doyle 1

    That'll be the ears of corn then.

    Wait until it strikes her that potatoes have eyes.

    Course she'd want to be careful around sentient corn - she could end up being stalked.

  11. mhenriday
    Thumb Up

    Despite the unfortunate Lafayette Ronald Hubbard associations

    this article might give rise to, this is serious science. Thanks for the headsup, Richard !...


  12. jaegar


  13. Harry

    Plants can talk actual words

    I know that for certain because I once overheard a theatre usher mentioning to the manager that tonights comedian was getting a lot of heckling. "You don't need to worry about that", the manager said, "its because there's a plant in the audience".

    1. Gerry Doyle 1

      Re: Plants can talk actual words

      Well that's a turnip for the books...

  14. Keep Refrigerated

    Waiter, waiter...

    My salad is clicking!

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