Wild Things

Does that ear of corn hear? Can fen­nel com­mu­ni­cate? Some new stud­ies sug­gest plants may be able to process sound

Canadian Wildlife - - FRONT PAGE - By Jay Ingram

Does that ear of corn hear? Can fen­nel com­mu­ni­cate? Some new stud­ies sug­gest plants may be able to process sound.

Peter Wohlleben’s best-sell­ing book The Hid­den Life of Trees has rein­vig­o­rated the idea that plants are ca­pa­ble of much more com­plex so­cial be­hav­iour than we have ad­mit­ted un­til now. Sci­en­tists are much more com­fort­able with this book than the sim­i­larly ti­tled pre­de­ces­sor from 1973, The Se­cret Life of Plants — not sur­pris­ing when one of its claims was that plants could tell when peo­ple were ly­ing. The Hid­den Life of Trees is a science book, and among the most in­trigu­ing pieces of cur­rent plant re­search that Wohlleben refers to, al­beit briefly, is that plants can “hear.”

There is al­ready solid ev­i­dence that plants com­mu­ni­cate. Two main mech­a­nisms al­low them to keep in touch with each other: air­borne chem­i­cal mes­sages and the trans­fer of sub­stances through the sub­sur­face net­work of fun­gal threads that con­nects to the roots. But sound? That’s some­thing else.

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