Can Plants Talk to Each Other? Researchers Say Yes

By Allison Bond | June 1, 2009 5:57 pm

sagebrushRemember how plants communicated with each other to exact revenge on humans in The Happening? Although the film didn’t exactly thrill critics, the science may have been more accurate than we think. New research indicates that plants that are genetically related can, in fact, distinguish which plants are in their “family,” just like people or animals. In fact, they can even warn relatives of impending danger.

Researchers at UCSD and Kyoto University cut off shoots from sagebrush plants, thereby creating a genetic copy of the parent plant, and re-planted the copies nearby. After damaging the copy the way a natural predator like a grasshopper would, the researchers waited a year, and found that the parent plants suffered 42 percent less herbivore damage than those that grew next to plants that weren’t genetically related. The researchers say this indicates that plants with family members nearby somehow knew to prepare themselves for an herbivore attack, thereby fending off threats more effectively.

The study, published in Ecology Letters, shows that sagebrush plants can distinguish plants that are genetically similar from those that aren’t—”self” from “non-self” in biology-speak—and the authors think other leafy greens can do it, too. The researchers don’t know how the plants “talked” to each other, but they speculate it might have been through chemical signals.

Hey, as long as the plants don’t gang up on us humans, we don’t see anything wrong with a little plant-to-plant communication.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Make Room For Space Florists: First Plants to Be Grown on the Moon
Discoblog: Your Plants Have More Twitter Followers Than You—Literally
Discoblog: Parasitic Plants Steal RNA, Spy on Their Hosts

Image: flickr / Fool-On-The-Hill

  • chemman

    Wow! It’s been a few days and no one has commented on this. Honestly, the title was so interesting I couldn’t help but read it. I still think it’s a bunch of mumbo jumbo made up by some professors to try to get some funding. Seriouly! How exstensive were those studies anyway?

  • Pingback: Daily Quippages - June 9, 2009 | The Starnes()

  • flowers gifts

    Can Plants Talk to Each Other? well, if researchers say so… i hope that there would be a basis or profound scientific explanation back up with videos and literacy article.

  • Malini

    I Belive plants and trees speak with persons who convey their love towards the plants

  • Julian M

    This goes to show that plants have some form of consciousness and feelings, maybe people could stop butchering and eating these poor things that give us life. Vegans also called ” Vegatable Hitlers” seem to either deny, or shift the thought of plants feeling, but science has shown that plants respond to the deaths of other plants, that they communicate to one another, respond to negative and positive influences, and that they scream when they are cut or plucked.

    • will g

      I’d love to see where science proved any of those things. All this shows is that in some small way, probably in a manner that makes the average ant look like Einstein, plants manage to send signals from one to another.
      Just because something has the ability to interact with another creature it isn’t automatically conscious and on the same level as animals which obviously and without question do feel pain and fear.

      Not to mention how I could go on and on about how many plants produce food for us to eat, purposely, such as fruit. I’ve never seen a chicken just drop a leg or wing out of nowhere…

  • http://discover barry

    In the film The Happening I gained some outsatnding imformation just from a film.Most would say that it is all made up nonesense.Why create a problem when surely a film portraying that infact that kind of thing between plant-plant has scientific evedent to prove that plants are living just as humans are.Why would such a threat from nature be so made up anyway? If you watch the film more than once like I did you. May just work oout for yourself and make your own prediction.People were killing themselves because they had no perpose to survive and idealy the survival of the fitest would them come into play.Its about keeping yourself safe as much as possible even in situataions that cause such a deadly threat.I’m not saying take it literaly but take it seriously.(life,that is) its only a film but you decide!!!

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  • Matt

    Mythbusters did a test that monitored the electrical output from plants when submitted to various different experiments. They discovered that plants work on a psychic wavelength, which would explain why humans have a difficult time picking up on Plant Sentience.

    I’m a big believer in Gaia theory, and I think every living thing on Earth, down to the tiniest microbe, is a part of the Earth’s consciousness. The planet itself is alive, but it’s just a hunk of rock floating in space, caught in a gravitational orbit around the sun. The only way it can express the life within is to produce life on its surface. Plants, animals and minerals all resonate in their own distinct way, but they do it in unison which gives the Earth its own distinct ‘voice’.
    Life exists on all planets, in one form or another. It doesn’t have to be life that we can comprehend here on Earth, but it does exist. Every planet has an electromagnetic frequency that is unique to the planet itself. If you listen to each individual frequency, you’ll hear just how strange it sounds, but if you put the EM frequencies of all the planets together, you get beautiful ambient music.
    Some one person may sing a beautiful song, but there’s nothing like an entire chorus.

    There are at least three types of life: Animal, Vegetable and Mineral. If it has energy, it is alive, even if we can’t comprehend it. An animal’s lifespan is measured in years to decades, a plant’s can be measured in decades to centuries, a rock’s lifespan is measured in centuries to eons. Think of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, “The Ents don’t say anything unless it’s worth taking…a long time to say.”
    My point is, life exists in many different forms, shapes and sizes. The way that life sees the world is a matter of perspective, and since no one can get into the perspective of a plant, or a Planet for that matter, it is ignorant to assume that just because they can’t interact the way animal life does, that they lack any thoughts or feelings.

    You may not believe in the life of a plant or a rock, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. They will be here long after you are gone, so technically it makes more sense for plants to disbelieve in you.

    It all comes down to perspective. You’ll have an easier time proving the emotional state of a plant than you will in proving God’s existence… But maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • Plantastic

    and now you can easily grow a pet like plant at home that MoVes and closes its leaves like crazy when you Tickle It!

  • Plantastic

    See video if your house plant doesn’t move when you Tickle it and you need a fun gift.


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