Plants May Actually Scream: Really!

Microphones picked up ultrasonic sounds produced when tomato or tobacco plants were cut or dried out. (joffi / Pixabay by CC0)

Health Editor’s Note: Just because humans cannot hear sounds that plants may make, that does not mean that they do not make them…..right?……Carol

Plants May Let Out Ultrasonic Squeals When Stressed

By Katherine J. Wu/

If a drought-parched plant lets out a scream, but it’s at a frequency too high to hear, does it count as a cry of distress? According to a study posted on the preprint server bioRxiv last week, the answer could very well be yes. (And we’re not talking about folklorish mandrakes.)

For the first time, researchers appear to have evidence that, like animals, plants can audibly vocalize their agony when deprived of water or forced to endure bodily harm. The study, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, adds another dimension to scientists’ growing understanding of how plants detect and interact with their surroundings—despite lacking many of the sensory organs their faunal counterparts deploy.

In recent years, it’s become abundantly clear that plants are far more sensitive than researchers once gave them credit for. They respond when touched by insectsturn toward sources of light, and some even sniff out other plants. Others are even sensitive to anesthetics, suggesting that they’re capable of experiencing something akin to “pain.”

“Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices,” Frantisek Baluska of the University of Bonn in Germany told Joanna Klein at the New York Times last year. “They’re living organisms which have their own problems.”

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