Plants That Talk

By Shlomo Maital   

    You could not make this up.

     When people are hurting,  they complain.  Whine, cry, grumble.

     Well – so do plants.  Honest!

     Prof. Lilach Hadany, Tel Aviv University, tried a moonshot experiment.  She set up ultrasonic microphones next to plants, in sound-dampening acoustic boxes tucked away in a basement away from outside noise.  Inside the boxes, “thirsty tomato plants emitted about 35 clicks per hour.   But plants not water-stressed kept mostly quiet.   …Stressed tomato plants make distinctive clicking noises that can be picked up by the microphones…scientists condensed the sounds and brought them into the range of human hearing.” 

     A machine learning algorithm was able to tell the difference between tomato clicks and tobacco plant clicks…and between thirsty plants and well-hydrated ones.

      What causes the sounds?  Plants do not have vocal chords.   Why are they making the sounds? 

      Scientists don’t know. 

      But for me —   I intend in future to talk to our plants a lot more.  If plants can talk, maybe they can listen. 

        Only – what in the world does one say to an orchid?   You’re incredibly beautiful?  They know that.  How are you today?   When do you plan to bloom?  That might stress them. 

        Maybe, just a few bars of the BeeGees – one two three four, stayin’ alive…. Stayin’ alive…..