Of tomato plants, iPods and Darwin’s great-great granddaughter

29 Jun
my tomato plants in late June

my tomato plants in late June

Could a voice actually matter in making plants grow? Most of the scientific-sounding explanations I’ve ever heard about response of plants to people have invoked the additional carbon dioxide in the plants’ vicinity. But over the weekend I heard about an unusual study carried out by The Royal Horticultural Society. The researchers played different voices through headphones to 10 different plants over a period of a month (mp3 through headphones), according to the BBC. The best growing plants were listening to Sarah Darwin, a botanist and descendant of Charles Darwin. She read from her famous forebear’s groundbreaking text, On the Origin of  Species.

Of course, some outlets have taken this story to an extreme: Women’s voices ‘make plants grow faster.’

I can’t find the study, so I can’t see how it was constructed or how valid it is other than as an amusing anecdote with a connection to botany and Charles Darwin. My more skeptical side asks: Really? Headphones on plants? Where do you attach them? I’d really like to see a photo of a tomato plant with an iPod.

So I doubt that the study actually has much to say about how plants respond to human beings. However, if plants actually do like Sarah Darwin’s voice, I can understand why. Hear her melodious voice on the accompanying  video from the BBC.


One Response to “Of tomato plants, iPods and Darwin’s great-great granddaughter”

  1. Jannie Funster June 29, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    Any plant I’ve talked to has thrived. Of course I hug them too, so I’d have to do a controlled study and such.

    I’d say they like Handel best, from my experience!


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