That humble garden plant that is thriving despite your neglect, could actually be using its ability to ‘listen’ to find the water it requires. That’s the very surprising finding of some recent research led by the University of Western Australia.
The study set out to determine whether plants could sense sound vibrations. In the published research called ‘Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water’, the researchers noted that plants had complex and developed senses that enabled them to detect and respond to sounds to find water.
The team from UWA’s Centre of Evolutionary Biology, at the School of Animal Biology, exposed plants to a series of sounds to see if it changed their behavior. When exposed to the sound of water running through pipes or in the soil, the roots of the plants grew towards the source of water. The plants could even tell the difference between a recording of running water and actual running water. Other sounds were not so popular with the plants and they were shown to move away from them.
The study also showed that in situations where there was adequate moisture in the soil, the plant’s behavior did not respond to the sound of running water. Importantly however, the research indicated that plants have a perception of their surroundings that is much more complex than previously understood – and they can use this particular ability to sense sound to alter their behavior and to thrive.