Thomas Ramey Watson

Plants may be able to ‘hear’ others

THEY can “smell” chemicals and respond to light, but can plants hear sounds? It seems chilli seeds can sense neighbouring plants even if those neighbours are sealed in a box, suggesting plants have a hitherto-unrecognised sense.

Plants are known to have many of the senses we do: they can sense changes in light level, “smell” chemicals in the air and “taste” them in the soil (New Scientist, 26 September 1998, p 24). They even have a sense of touch that detects buffeting from strong winds.

The most controversial claim is that plants can hear, an idea that dates back to the 19th century. Since then a few studies have suggested that plants respond to sound, prompting somewhat spurious suggestions that talking to plants can help them grow.

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