Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do Plants Talk?

As I work among my flowers, I find myself talking
to them, reasoning and remonstrating with them, and adoring
them as if they were human beings.  Much laughter I provoke
among my friends by so doing, but that is of no consequence.
We are on such good terms, my flowers and I.
- Celia Thaxter, 1835-1894

I also talk to my plants. I can hear their voices answering me.

 Many people talk to their plants. A recent study agrees with Prince Charles' comment two decades ago, saying that it was very important to talk to plants and that they respond to us.  In this study the Royal Horticultural Society found that tomato plants grew faster when read to. 

The idea of talking to plants appeared in literature in the nineteenth century when Gustave Fechner wrote that he believed that plants had emotions and that humans could promote healthy growth through these emotions by talking to them. Later Luther Burbank wrote that plants may not understand the spoken word, but could telepathically understand the meaning of speech.

Some forty years ago in The Secret Life of Plants the authors affirmed these ideas by experiments proving that plants feel the emotions of their gardeners from some distances away and respond. 
Some of us are even so sensitive to our gardens that we know without seeing them that they need something.  It could be water or more light, or even just our presence speaking with love and admiration for these special beings.

We can have an effect on plants and they physically respond. But do plants talk to us? They have no possibility for speech, but can they communicate in different ways? In the seventeenth century it was believed that plants had souls. In Islamic philosophy this is believed to be the case.  Having a soul connotes a basic consciousness.
Every tree, every plant, has a spirit. People may say that a plant has no mind. I tell them that a plant is alive and conscious. A plant may not talk, but there is a spirit in it that is conscious, that sees everything, which is the soul of the plant, its essence, what makes it alive.

—Pablo Amaringo, Peruvian ayahuasquero
I agree with these Indians.  A spirit inhabits every tree and every plant, even flowers.  They do speak to us, if we know how to listen.  Most gardeners have cultivated the fine art of listening to their plants' voices.

The temple bell stops
but I still hear the sound
coming out of the flowers.
- Basho, 1680

There is a new apparatus that measures the messages of plants and posts them on Twitter.   It will help gardeners know when their plant needs to be watered.  For those of us who have cultivated listening to our plants, this machine could be fun, but unnecessary.  Our plants talk to us and we respond to their needs.  Could there be anything more down-to-earth for a gardener to know?


Muhammad khabbab said...

Although i do not talk to my plants but i think they do. When i forget to water my antigonon and passiflora vines, they scream!!!!. Fragrant flowers call through their sweet fragrance waiting to be touched and praised.

Jo said...

Many people see their plants as old friends. Many plants outlast the acquaintances we meet throughout our lives.

Frances said...

Oh I love this post and couldn't agree more. Whether it is the carbon dioxide from our breath as we talk to the plants or a deeper emotional link, all life is precious and plants are very much alive. I do love Celia Thaxter, and Prince Charles for their world views. :-)

Rosey Pollen said...

My plants always seem to thrive when I an "tuned" into their needs and I think this is fabulous post. I think you hit the nail on the head!
That rose is beautiful!

wiseacre said...

I don't talk to plants. They already know I'm a blooming looneytic.

I agree that plants are endowed with a type of consciousness beyond the realm of science. Stopping to smell the flowers is only the first step on the road to enlightenment :)

Glimmer said...

I totally understand!

Sue Swift said...

I seem to remember an experiment done with plants and music. When played classical music the plants grew towards the source of the sound. When played rock, they leaned away ...

Nell Jean said...

Years ago, there was a young man in the neighborhood where I lived who unnerved some of the women on the street. He walked the streets often and stared. Stared.

One day I was kneeling in a flower bed about 40 feet from the street, telling some petunias, "I don't know what makes you all sprawl like that." I looked up to see him crossing quickly to the other side of the street and hurrying away to get away from the crazy woman. He never looked my way again.

Jackie said...

Love the botanical print pictures! I'm always talking to my plants...and my computer :)

ryan said...

Almost every good gardener I know talks to their plants at least sometimes, and I think it's pretty well established that they talk to each other. I reckon they can talk to us if we figure out how to listen. I have to say I'm skeptical of them getting on twitter though. Doesn't seem very entish.

Plants lover said...

Yeah, I talk to my plants. :)

lynn'sgarden said...

I SO agree with this, Mary Delle! Not only do plants benefit from these 'talk', the gardener, too! I sing (off-key) in my garden!

Glimmer said...

I'm not the only one who talks to my garden. A neighbor who says "You don't even know how much I need" the zinnias admitted this year that he walks by routinely and talks to my flowers as well.

No wonder my garden is so beautiful this year. I have realized the blooms are getting a chorus of talking to! My neighbor is getting nervous with the cooler weather setting in, as am I. He's quizzing me. "How long can they last. A few weeks? Can we keep them 'til November do you think?"

Such flower love! It keeps me buoyed up.

Wendy said...

My daughter has done lots of plant related science fair projects. I proposed she do one on talking to plants, but she said she woudln't be able to bring herself to neglecting one of the test subjects! I think I do believe what you're saying. I'm not sure I've really ever gone beyond the "Why hello pretty campanula!".

Sylvana said...

I think my plants are masochistic. I'm often scolding them like children and they do great. I'll often stop suddenly to my husband's snickering or see the neighbor eying me up -- oops!

Carol said...

Such an important post MaryDelle... and if more in the world would wake up to this way of thinking and feeling ... we would treat nature with more reverence and less as a commodity, more as something to engage and embrace and less to manipulate. Clear-cut would become a horror of the past. Carol

James Missier said...

I remember when I was a young boy that I used to sing to plants and trees. Now, I realised that I had move out from that phase.

Somehow, I feel intuitively and that is a strange kind of communication exchanged without words, like when I sense some plant been cut and thrown on the roadside and me rescuing them on time. Not sure whether other gardeners sense this.

But above all, I love to touch and caress the plants - something like saying, "I care for you"