It Turns out That Plants Scream When They’re Stressed – We Just Can’t Hear Them

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Bad news for all of those vegans and vegetarians out there who choose the lifestyle out of kindness – it turns out that plants get majorly stressed when their well-being is threatened, too.

In fact, a new study has found that some plants emit “ultrasonic clicks” outside the normal range of human hearing when they’re under stress. The sounds themselves were recorded and mined for information about what they say about a plant’s well-being, says the corresponding paper.

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“These findings can alter the way we think about the plant kingdom, which has been considered to be almost silent until now.”

This study joins previous published research that found plants can change color, smell, and shape in responses to detrimental alterations in temperature, light, and “attack.” They’ve also been found to give off volatile organic compounds when threatened.

In the study, researchers used microphones focused on an ultrasonic range between 20 and 150Hz to attempt to “hear” the plants react to their environment. The plants who were stressed emitted more sounds – and different types of sounds – depending on what was happening to them.

Basically, the sounds provided information about the plant’s current physiological state – if it was being deprived of water, being cut, etc.

The sounds were capable of being heard up to 16 feet away, meaning that animals and other plants in the vicinity could potentially hear and even interpret them (like perhaps a way of warning other plants? asking for help?). Scientists believe the plants us an internal process called cavitation – air bubbles forming and exploding in the xylem – to create the noise.

“Our results suggest that animals, humans, and possibly even other plants could use sounds emitted by a plant to gain information about the plant’s condition.”

Bad news for people like me, who can’t keep plants alive in the house, either. And I bet they’re terrified of my cat (and my toddlers). At least, it’s bad news until they figure out a way for all of us to “hear” and communicate with our plants.

What do you make of this? Will it change the way you take care of plants in your house? I’m curious!