Stressed plants make sounds

Photo credit: Eva Bronzini

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Apparently, humans and animals are not the only living things that make sounds. Katie Hunt, CNN SPACE+ SCIENCE, writes about a new study that says plants are also capable of making sounds, specifically when they are thirsty and under stress. Earlier it was known that plants made vibrations but now, using ultrasonic microphones, researchers found that plants are actually emitting sounds. These sounds were similar to ones made by the pop of popcorn or the bursting of bubble wrap.

The researchers also found that when the plants were stressed, they made more sounds than when not under stress, But the researcher don’t believe that the sounds are indicative of communication among the plants. Hunt tells us that other organisms may be benefiting from these sounds. For example, the sound indicating stress in the plant may discourage a female moth from laying eggs on that plant. Also, other plants may be tuning in to the sounds and benefiting from these sounds, e. g. there may be an increase in the concentration of sugar in certain plants when sounds from pollinators are heard.

The study co-author, Lilach Hadany, told Hunt that she was skeptical “that plants were completely noiseless.”

While I understand that the sounds are being emitted while the plant is under stress and could be viewed as a noise, I would prefer that the word sound be used instead of noise. Sound and noise, as many researchers have pointed out, are different. What we have learned from this article is that plants can make sounds–a most interesting observation.

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