In a world awash in sounds, plants have long been reliable purveyors of silence. But as it turns out, they've been talking behind our backs this whole time.
According to the findings of a remarkable new study from the University of Western Australia, evidence suggests that plants are not as deaf and dumb as was once thought. Researcher Monica Gagliano discovered that plants regularly reacted to and emitted sounds through a series of 'clicks' produced by their roots -- and that the inter-flora communication may be essential to their survival.
"Everyone knows that plants react to light, and scientists also know that plants use volatile chemicals to communicate with each other - for instance, when danger , such as a herbivore, approaches," say Gagliano, as reported by Australian Geographic.
"I was working one day in my herb garden and started to wonder if maybe plants were also sensitive to sounds - why not? So I decided as a scientist to find out."
Gagliano, an evolutionary ecologist, along with University of Florence professor Stefano Mancuso, decided to eavesdrop on the roots of some young corn plants. Incredibly, they found that the plants regularly produced sounds in the range of 220Hz, a frequency audible to the human ear.
To prove that other plants could actually hear these sounds, the researchers then presented them to another corn specimen whose roots were suspended in water. This listening plant, as it turns out, was observed leaning towards the talking one.
While there is much to learn about how plants communicate and for what reasons, Gagliano says "it is very likely that some form of sensitivity to sound and vibrations also plays an important role in the life of plants."
"We've discovered maybe that plants can do as much as animals – which is even more incredible seeing as they can't move."
Hopefully, researchers will soon test to see if this communicative ability exists in other plant species as well. After all, everyone knows corn is all ears.