Plants “Talk” With Each Other, Study Says

June 19, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. acoustic [uh-KOO-stik] (adj.) – relating to sound
Example: Hearing nerves transfer acoustic information from the ears to the brain.

2. detrimental [de-truh-MEN-tl] (adj.) – harmful or damaging
ExampleLoud music is detrimental to people's hearing. 

3. germinate [JUR-muh-neyt] (v.) – to develop or grow
ExampleWater and sunshine are essential for a seed to germinate and grow into a plant.

4. villain [VIL-uh n]  (n.) – an enemy; someone or something that does harm to another
Example: Farmers consider weeds as villains for stealing nutrients from the crops.

5. embrace [em-BREYS] (v.) – to willingly accept
ExampleMrs. Rivera embraced the new gardening method that she learned from the magazine.


Read the text below.
A study in the journal BMC Ecology claims that plants are able to "talk" with each other through acoustic signals generated by vibrations inside the cells.

Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton of the University of Western Australia conducted a series of experiments in a mini-garden to study the interactions between plants.

In one experiment, the researchers planted chili seeds next to a fennel plant. The fennel plant releases chemicals that are detrimental to most plants. As expected, the chili seeds germinated more slowly than usual. The researchers then sealed off the fennel plant with black plastic to avoid chemical release. Instead of returning to normal growth speed, the chilis grew more quickly.

Researchers said that the chilis might have sensed that a villain was nearby through some unknown method. Thus, the plant grew faster to better fight the fennel plant.

In another experiment, the researchers planted basil [BAZ-uh l, BAS-, BEY-zuh l, -suh l] next to the chili seeds. Basil is known as a "friendly" plant that releases chemicals to prevent weed growth. Even when the basil was sealed off, the chilis continued to grow quickly. The researchers therefore concluded that through the same unknown method, the chilis sensed the presence of a friendly plant.

The unknown method, the scientists believe, involves acoustic signals produced by plants. These signals allow the plants to communicate with each other.

However, according to Gagliano, no one has figured out the mechanism of how plants "hear."  Also, other researchers have not yet embraced the idea that plants talk to each other. Thus, stronger evidence is still needed.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think that it is possible for plants to really talk to each other? Why or why not?
·         How can people benefit if plants could talk with each other? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Do you believe that sound is essential in everyday life? Why do you say so?
·         What do you think the world would be like if sound did not exist? Please explain your answer.


June 19, 2013