Sending Out an S.O.S.

For a long time, scientists have known that plants respond to their surroundings. There are flowers that open during the day and close at night and many plants will grow towards a light source whenever possible.

However, it has also been proven that plants can warn each other when danger is present and even scream when under duress.

When something happens to an individual plant such as an insect laying its eggs or an herbivore starting to munch away, it releases specific scents and volatile gasses that warn other nearby plants that danger is near. Nearby plants respond by secreting toxic chemicals to coat their surfaces to deter animals such as caterpillars.

It’s also been found that plants respond to sound and can communicate via sound. Some plants, such as corn seedlings, make high frequency clicking noises with their roots to communicate with their neighbors. When exposed to a noise on the same frequency, the seedlings grew towards the source of the noise.

In case your mind wasn’t quite blown yet, there’s also evidence to support plants’ ability to recognize other plants from the same parent. When a new plant is introduced to an environment in close contact, such as in a pot, the resident plant will rapidly accelerate its root growth to seize resources like minerals or water. However, when a plant sprouted from the same parent is introduced, the resident plant does not attempt to starve out its new friend.

There’s a lot we still do not know about plants and how they work but there are many scientists around the world dedicated to figuring out a bit more about the not-so-silent friends we share this world with. And next time your neighbor mows their lawn, take a deep breath and savor the sweet smell of a dying plant’s cry of warning to its doomed friends.

potted plants

Resources:

Christine Hsu. “Discovery Reveals How Plants Cry for Help When an Attack is Imminent” Medical Daily. https://www.medicaldaily.com/discovery-reveals-how-plants-cry-help-when-attack-imminent-242379 (accessed 23, April 2018)

Dan Charles. “Stressed Plants Cry for Help” New Scientist. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15320720-800-stressed-plants-cry-for-help/ (accessed 23, April 2018)

Taranisen Panda and Rajballa Mohanty. “Are Plants Intelligent?” Science Horizon. http://www.orissabigyanacademy.nic.in/pdf/August_2017_Science_Horizon-1182017.pdf#page=40. Pages 30-41. (accessed 23, April 2018)

Photos obtained from creative commons then edited.