Do Plants Talk in Multiple Languages?
Last week I wrote a post about chemical signals plants use to communicate stress. Plants “talk” using the scents that we enjoy so much to ward off pests, attract helpful insects and warn neighboring plants of attacks. But scents may not be the only way plants communicate.
Basil is used as a companion plant in gardens because basil can promote healthier plants. The aroma given off by basil repels many pests but basil also helps plants grow. The way this occurs is not completely understood.
Researchers from Australia recently reported on an unusual finding they had. In their experiments, they planted chilli plant seeds in a circle surrounding either a basil plant or a chilli plant. The plants were sealed in a cylindrical container so they could not touch the seeds by roots or leaves, and the air was not shared between plants and seeds to avoid chemical communication.
Surprisingly the researchers found that seeds surrounding the basil plant sprouted faster, despite the fact that all known forms of communication were blocked.
The authors of the paper do not know how the plants are communicating, but suggest that they might be communicating acoustically using vibrations.
Although these findings are preliminary and need to be rigorously repeated and tested, they are nonetheless intriguing. Perhaps Roald Dahl was not so far off when he wrote “The Sound Machine”!