There was a time when talking plants was mythology. Now, it’s science.
Hidden Messages in Plain Sight
Plants don’t speak English, obviously. Somehow, though, they communicate through channels scientists are only beginning to understand. No less than Science Magazine, the most respected journal in America, said this: “Shhh, the Plants are Talking.” In the “Science Shot” article, reporter Andrew Porterfield described controlled experiments in Australia that showed chilis grow better when basil is nearby. Somehow, the basil coaxes the chili plants through a hidden mechanism:
Because light, touch, and chemical “smell” were ruled out, the team proposes that the finding points to a new type of communication between plants, possibly involving nanoscale sound waves, traveling through the dirt to bring encouraging “words” to the growing seeds. Understanding this novel communication could help growers boost crop yields and increase global food supplies. How neighborly.
Live Science put it this way: “Even in the plant world, babies fail to thrive without a friendly community chattering nearby, according to a new study.” We weren’t kidding about talking plants. Reporter Becky Olson headlined her article, “Plants Talk: Seedlings Thrive with Encouraging ‘Words’.”
The Underground Fungal Railroad
More evidence is arising that plants communicate throughout ecological communities through a network of fungal threads in the soil. The fungi reward the plants for sharing nutrients by passing messages along, in a symbiotic relationship. The BBC News featured more discoveries about the underground network, as did PhysOrg. The BBC article claims that work in the UK is the first to show plant communication via the fungal railroad.
The research appears to show that a bean plant under attack by aphids can send out a warning through the underground communication channels. Plants getting the message set up defenses, but plants without the fungal network do not. One of the researchers was delighted at this “abject surprise that it was just so powerful — just such a fantastic signalling system.”
The BBC called this an “evolutionary role” for the fungus without explaining how a blind, purposeless process could discover any role in complex communications systems.
Some day soon we may decipher the language of plants. Here are some predictions. Favorite joke: that some humans think the underground railroad evolved. Favorite saint: Basil. Weather report: Chili today and hot tamale. Favorite pastime: sending intelligently designed signals. Favorite cowboy line: Where never is heard a discouraging word. Favorite hymn: Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.