Some People Think Plants Can Hear

By Brett Barnett · Last Updated 3 years ago

Plant perception has long been a controversial subject matter.

They’ve long existed on the fringes of the scientific community, their studies dismissed as pseudoscience, but it seems more and more scientists are branching out into the world of plant perception.

Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia, recently conducted a study that contributes further evidence to the controversial theory that plants are actually able to detect sound.

That’s right—plants can hear! Or so says Gagliano’s study.

Placed in a pot with one half wet soil and one half dry soil, a seed’s roots will, of course, grow towards moisture. Gagliano showed that when the moist soil is replaced with more dry soil, but with a tube filled with flowing water running through, the results did not change.

In other words, the plants grew towards the source of water—even when there was no actual water present, and nothing but the sound of flowing water to indicate where it might be.

Gagliano’s study isn’t the only one to present similar findings. As reported in Scientific American, a 2014 study by Heidi M. Appel “showed the rock cress arabiodopsis can distinguish between caterpillar chewing sounds and wind vibrations—the plant produced more chemical toxins after ‘hearing’ a recording of feeding insects.”

It’s theorized that plants are able to sense sound vibrations with tiny hairs. It may sound a bit out there, but it’s not too far from senses that we know plants have. They can, after all, sense and react to sunlight, and they’re able to orient themselves against gravity.

Perhaps most amazingly, mimosa pudica is a plant which curls up in response to touch. It’s an amazing, almost eerie sight to behold.

But plants, of course, don’t have a brain or a nervous system, and “intelligence” is not quite the right word here. They may not be intelligent creatures—but that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing.