While research has proved that plants communicate with each other, they might also be trying to chat with us too.
There’s a series of apocryphal tales on the internet, where individuals have been convinced that their houseplants have been talking to them. One involved an academic in Finland who heard a series of high-pitched clicks from a plant. Oddly, when a visitor entered the room, the clicking stopped. When that visitor left, the clicking continued for a period of two years.
As someone who has an extended family of plant pals, there’s some vague credibility in the above. At home, I feel the least lonely in the bathroom, where most of my ferns live. They’re just sort of there. But are they trying to chat with us?
Monica Gagliano at the University of Western Australia was one of the first academics that suggest plants transmit and receive information through vibrations, and therefore, communicate. As BBC.com noted, “It was in a much-cited paper published in 2012 that she and her co-authors reported the detection of clicking noises from plant roots. The researchers used a laser vibrometer to detect these sounds right at the root tips. Gagliano says that the laser was trained on the roots when they were submerged in water in a lab setting, to help ensure that the detected sounds were indeed emanating from the roots themselves.”
Gagliano has also noted that plants respond to different frequencies by growing in different directions. She “has also raised eyebrows with claims that, in non-experimental settings, she has heard plants speak to her using words,” per BBC.com.
As Hannah Devlin of The Guardian noted, plants also “warn their neighbours of impending aphid attacks via thread-like filaments of fungi that connect roots in complex communication networks and are able to detect whether they are surrounded by ‘strangers’ or their own kin.”
But while they chat amongst themselves, further research suggests they like when we dialogue with them.
Plants probably don’t hear as we do,” says Dr Dominique Hes, biophilia expert and lead researcher at Horticulture Innovation Australia’s Plant Life Balance. “But some research shows that speaking nicely to plants will support their growth, whereas yelling at them won’t. Rather than the meaning of words, however, this may have more to do with vibrations and volume. Plants react favourably to low levels of vibrations, around 115-250hz being ideal…the vibrations improve communication and photosynthesis, which improves growth and the ability to fight infection. You could say the plants are happy,” Dr Hes explained.