Music for plants growth

The turn of the seasons means maintaining a garden is a year-round challenge. But it can prove rewarding. George Harrison’s garden at Friar Park was said to have given him as much pleasure as his music.

Admittedly, putting old clothes on and grovelling around in the dirt isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. But planting seeds, growing stuff, making a beautiful outdoor environment – there’s plenty there for a songwriter looking for a metaphor.

So flex those green fingers and suggest songs about gardens below. I’ll dead-head and prune it best I can, and on Thursday we’ll unveil the best of the blooms.

The toolbox:

* Listen to others’ suggestions and add yours to a collaborative Spotify playlist

* Guide to “donds”, “zedded”, and other strange words used by some of the RR regulars (courtesy of the Marconium)

* The Marconium (blog containing a wealth of data on RR, including the songs that are “zedded”)

* The ‘Spill (blog for the RR community)

Please do:

* Post your nominations before midday on Tuesday if you wish them to be considered.

* Write a few lines advocating the merits of your choices.

But please don’t:

* Post more than one third of the lyrics of any song.

* Dump lists of nominations. If you must post more than two or three at once, please attempt to justify your choices.

Also See Garden, Spring

A Song of Flowers added 3-12-98 Original Author Unknown

Sung to: “Sing a Song of Sixpence”
Sing a song of flowers, flowers all around.
Flowers that are growing, growing in the ground
Flowers of each color make a pretty view.
Red and orange and yellow.
And blue and purple, too.

Dandelions added 4-14-98 Original Author Unknown

Plants added 4-14-98 Original Author Unknown

Sung to: “The Farmer In The Dell”
The farmer plants the seeds
The farmer plants the seeds
Hi, Ho and Cherry O
The farmer plants the seeds
The rain begins to fall
The sun begins to shine
The plants begin to grow
The buds all open up
The flowers smile at me

Flower Garden added 4-14-98 Original Author Unknown

Sung to: “The Farmer In The Dell”
The farmer plants the seeds
The Farmer plants the seeds
Hi, Ho and Cheery O
The farmer plants the seeds.

(Use the following verses.)
The sun begins to shine
The rain begins to fall
The plants begin to grow
The flowers smile at us

Parts of the plants added 4-29-98 Original Author Unknown

Sung to: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”

Do you know the parts of plants, parts of plants?
Do you know the parts of plants, parts of plants?
All kinds of plants that grow and grow and grow.
Do you know the parts of plants, parts of plants?

The roots hold the plant in place, plant in place.
The roots hold the plant in place, plant in place.
The roots store food and water too.
The roots hold the plant in place, plant in place.

The stem moves water up the plant, up the plant.
The stem moves water up the plant, up the plant.
The stem brings water to the leaves.
The stem moves water up the plant, up the plant.

The leaves soak up the sun, soak up the sun.
The leaves soak up the sun, soak up the sun.
The sun helps the plant to grow and grow and grow.
The leaves soak up the sun, soak up the sun.

The flower grows into a fruit, into a fruit.
The flower grows into a fruit, into a fruit.
Inside the fruit are little, tiny seeds.
The flower grows into a fruit, into a fruit.

I’m a Little Flower Pot added 8-18-98 Original Author Unknown

Sung to: “I’m a Little Teapot”

I’m a little flower pot mom put out (point to self)
If you take care of me, I will sprout. (nod head, point to self)
When you water me, I will grow (make sprinkling motions w/ right hand)
Into a pretty flower, don’t you know! (raise left hand slowly up from
floor, make wide circle with hands or arms) Daffodil song added 8-18-98 Original Author Unknown

Yellow yellow daffodil, dancing in the sun..
oh yellow , yellow daffodil, you tell me spring has come.
I can hear a blue bird sing, and hear a robin call.
but yellow yellow daffodil I love you most of all. Relaxing Flowers added 8-18-98 Original Author Unknown

Five little flowers standing in the sun (hold up five fingers)
See their heads nodding, bowing one by one? (bend fingers several times)
Down, down, down comes the gentle rain (raise hands, wiggle fingers and lower
arms to simulate falling rain) And the five little flowers lift their heads up again! (hold up five fingers)

Daffodils Fingerplay added 3-23-00 Original Author Unknown

(Show fingers or make daffodil puppets from cupcake liners and craft sticks!)
One little daffodil had nothing much to do,
Out popped another one, then there were two.
Two little daffodils were smiling at a bee,
Out popped another one, then there were three.
Three little daffodils were growing by the door,
Out popped another one, then there were four.
Four little daffodils were glad to be alive,
Out popped another one, then there were five.
Five little daffodils were wearing golden crowns,
They danced in the breeze in green satin gowns.

I’m a Little Flower Seed added 3-1-01 Original Author Unknown
I’m a little flower seed.
I’m planted in the earth.
I feel the sun come down on me to warm this big old earth. (children sit and tuck in their heads and knees to look like a ball)
The rain begins to come and gets rid of my big thirst. (wiggle fingers in the air in a downward motion)
I then became a big and pretty flower so you can pick me first. (children stand up)

Flowers added 3-1-01 Original Author Unknown
Sung to: “Pop! Goes the Weasel”
All around the forest ground
There’s flowers everywhere.
There’s pink, yellow, and purple too.
Here’s one for you.

Tulips added 3-25-01 Original Author Unknown
Five little tulips bright and gay, (hold up fingers and thumb on one hand)
Let us water them each day. (make sprinkle motion with other hand)
Watch them open in the bright sunlight. (cup hand, then open it)
Watch them when it is night. (close hand again)

Flowers Tall and Small added 3-25-01 Original Author Unknown
Flowers tall, (let tall fingers stand up)
Flowers small, (let little finger and thumb stand up)
Count them one by one,
Blowing with the breezes
In the springtime sun!
1,2,3,4,5 (touch each finger as you count)

Three Little Tulips added 3-11-02 Original Author Unknown
Sung to: “Six Little Ducks”
Three little tulips I once grew,
A white one, a pink one, a red one too.
One little tulip grew, grew, grew.
It grew taller than the other two,
The other two, the other two.
It grew taller than the other two!

I’m a little Daisy added 3-15-02 Original Author Unknown
Sung to: “I’m a Little Teapot”
I’m a little daisy
Tall and slim (Stand on tiptoes)
Here are my petals (Place hands on side of head & wiggle fingers)
Here is my stem (Hold arms down at sides of legs)
When the sun comes up (Make sun with arms)
And the rain comes down (Flutter hands to floor like rain-end in crouching position)
I grow, grow, grow- up from the ground! (slowly raise up bring hand over head)

A Little Sun added 3-24-02 Original Author Unknown
A little sun (hold arms above head)
A little rain (wiggle fingers in the air in a downward motion)
Now pull up all the weeds (pretend to pull weeds)
Our flowers grow, all in a row (hold up all ten fingers lined up like flowers)
From tiny little seeds. (hold thumb and finger to show size of seeds)

Here’s a Little Flower added 6-10-02 Original Author Unknown
Sung to: “Did You Ever See a Lassie?”
There’s a little flower,
A flower, a flower.
There’s a little flower
On my garden path.
A flower so neat!
It’s a rose so sweet.
There’s a little flower
On my garden path.
(Continue singing additional verses to the song, replacing the word “rose” in the second verse with hollyhock, marigold, zinnia, daisy, bluebell, lily, peony, pansy, tulip, and sunflower.)

Five Spring Flowers added 7-9-02 Original Author Unknown
Five spring flowers, all in a row.
The first one said, “We need rain to grow!”
The second one said, “Oh my, we need water!”
The third one said, “Yes, it is getting hotter!”
The fourth one said, “I see clouds in the sky.”
The fifth one said, “I wonder why?”
Then BOOM went the thunder
And ZAP went the lightning!
That springtime storm was really frightening!
But the flowers weren’t worried–no, no, no, no!
The rain helped them to grow, grow, GROW!

Growing your high-value crops indoors is becoming increasingly popular owing to the numerous advantages it offers. The requirements of plants are unique to every stage of growth and a minor fluctuation in pH, temperature, light or humidity can affect their performance.

All these factors can be controlled manually inside a protected grow room that ultimately brings out the desired quality of the harvest.

Advantages of Indoor Growing

  • Growers can have complete control over the growing environment of plants. Factors like water, nutrient, heat, light, air, humidity, etc. can be managed effectively inside a grow room.
  • When plants are growing in a controlled environment, other factors like flowering, harvest, size and quality of crops can also be determined by growers themselves.
  • The indoor grow room is a protected zone for plants, and therefore, they are safe from pests, insects and other kinds of preys that are nuisances for plants growing outdoors.

Prerequisites for Indoor Growing

Growing medium, nutrients, pH and EC, etc. are some of the few basic parameters to be maintained while growing indoors. Thus, here we have summarized the importance of CO2 generators along with environmental control factors that accelerate growth and add value to your hydroponics grow room.

CO2 Generator – CO2 is one of the key ingredients that fuel the physiological processes occurring in plants and your high-value crops are no exception. Supply of CO2 is enhanced inside your grow room with the help of CO2 generators. Although atmospheric carbon dioxide can suffice to meet the minimum requirement of plants, an increase in its levels will lead to accelerated growth and yield.

Effect of CO2 on Growth – Sounds cliche but it is true; plants cannot survive without CO2. The amount of CO2 present in the atmosphere at the moment is 300-400 parts per million. This density is however not sufficient for the optimal growth of plants. Therefore, you can add CO2 inside your grow room with the help of generators and elevate levels to 1000-1500ppm. Plants show 25% faster grow rate under this condition. So how does that happen?

The extra CO2 in the grow environment enables the plant to tolerate more heat i.e. temperatures as high as 70-85 degree F. And under this range of temperate and CO2 density, plants are benefited directly in the following ways:

  • Photosynthesis: Plants primarily use CO2 during photosynthesis. More of the CO2 is accessed by plants leading to a rapid the rate of photosynthesis.
  • Vegetative Growth: The sound effects of CO2 are directly pronounced on the vegetative state of plants. Adding extra CO2 particularly during the vegetative stage is a smart way to grow bigger plants in less time.
  • Flowering: Growers understand that increased growth and bud production can be achieved by elevating CO2 levels during the first 2-3 weeks of flowering till two weeks before harvest.

What is a Carbon Dioxide Generator?

CO2 can be supplemented inside a grow room with the help of a CO2 generator. It’s a device that generates CO2 by burning propane, natural gas or denatured alcohol. The chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas and water. Since water is a by-product, it increases the humidity of compact grow rooms. Therefore, you need to monitor the moisture and maintain its optimum value. Also, check that your CO2 generator is equipped with fire safety features.

Environment Control Parameters

  • Light: The quality of grow lights and duration of light are vital for plants growth. The set up must contain a bulb (Metal Halide or HID), reflector, ballast, timer and electrical inputs/outputs. Lights that mimic natural sunlight are best suited for growth. HID or MH lights are the most efficient options for indoor grow rooms; the former ideal for seedling and vegetative growth while the latter for flowering. High-value crops need a lot of light, so, in any case, the total number of lumens received should not go below 2500. Secondly, fix the reflectors in such a way that when light bounces off from them falls directly on the plants.
  • Air: Plants needs fresh air or oxygen during the vegetative and flowering phase. Keep the windows of your grow room open while protecting them from cold winds during winters. You can also install fans both exhaust and regular to maintain proper air circulation. A CO2 generator is also useful to boost up photosynthesis. Plants grow rapidly and yield bigger buds under increased concentration of CO2.
  • Temperature: Indoor grow rooms receive heat either from sunlight naturally or from artificial systems installed inside. Cooling and heating thermostats help to maintain the temperature of surroundings. Make sure that the exhaust fans operate timely and at specific intervals to blow out hot stale air from the room. The ideal grow room temperature ranges from 70 to 75 degree F.
  • Humidity: Plants require a moderately humid environment for optimal growth. A hygrometer will let you detect the relative humidity (RH) of your grow room which should be within 40-80%. A simple way to control humidity is to use an RH measuring kit to know how much fresh air needs to go in for balancing the humidity to an optimal level.

These are the basic requirements for indoor growing. The needs of plants vary in different stages of growth and accordingly you have to meet those needs. Last but not the least, take care of your system and ensure that the growing environment, plants, equipment, mediums, etc. are sterile, hygienic, clean and above all free from fungus, bacteria, pests, diseases and other types of germs and disorders. Good luck with your garden!

Can Ultrasound Accelerate Plant Growth?

Early experiments were largely confined to using frequencies in the audio range, and most of those tests were done with frequencies so low that they could actually be felt by humans. It wasn’t until the development of electronic oscillators that scientists were able to experiment with ultrasonic plant growth acceleration. The better-equipped researchers discovered that the effect only becomes noticeable at frequencies higher than 20,000 CPS and that the benefit continues to increase up to about 50,000 CPS.

Actual Results

The report I ran across discussed the effects of bathing radishes in ultrasound. One flat of seeds was placed in an environmentally controlled chamber with 50,000 CPS ultrasound piped in at an output of about one watt; the second group (called a control) was set in an identical chamber but did not receive exposure to ultrasound. Artificial lighting was switched on in both chambers for 12 hours each day (during which time the experimental flat received ultrasound). Both groups were watered and cared for equally.

After about seven days, the seeds in both trays began to sprout. One week is just about the normal germination period for radishes, so up to that point in the experiment, ultrasound didn’t seem to offer any benefit.

It soon became apparent, though, that the seedlings receiving ultrasound treatment were growing much more rapidly than their control counterparts. In fact, by the fourteenth day the experimental plants were half again as tall as the ones in the “quiet” chamber.

The experiment continued for 28 days, the same period of time used in the photovoltaic root stimulation tests. By the end of the test, the plants treated with ultrasonic vibrations had grown an average of 87% taller than their control cousins. (The actual growth rates are shown in graphic form in Fig. 2.) Repetitions of the experiment were run to confirm the initial results, and some of the later tests showed growth rate increases of as much as 150%!

It isn’t exactly clear why ultrasound stimulates plant growth. Evidence seems to support the theory that the sound acts as a catalyst, activating the production of plant hormones called auxins. As was the case with photovoltaic root stimulation, however, concrete explanations will have to wait for further research.

A Home Experiment

Since seeing is believing, you’ll probably want to stage your own experiment. This test will be a little more involved than the one we used for photovoltaic stimulation, but it’s still not difficult to perform.

Your first (and main) problem will be obtaining an ultrasonic generator of suitable quality. Commercial generators are too expensive for most of us to buy simply to satisfy our curiosity, but you might be able to use one owned by a high school or college. Also, most TV repair shops keep an ultrasound generator on hand, even though they rarely need it. (If you try to strike a deal to borrow or rent a generator from one of these sources, be sure that the unit has an output of at least one-half watt.)

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And there’s yet another possible source of high-frequency sound. Have you seen advertisements for rodent-repelling machines? Such devices are simply frequency generators that supposedly scare away the varmints by flooding a room with high-intensity ultrasound. These devices could be just the ticket . . . except that they, too, are pretty pricey. Better ones cost up to $100, and the $20 models probably won’t work for our purposes. If you already own a good-quality “rat ridder”, though, it will serve well for your experiment.

If none of the above possibilities bear fruit, you can build your own ultrasonic generator. It’s not a difficult electronics project, and the device can be assembled for under $20 from parts available at a local Radio Shack store. The schematic (Fig. 3) shows the layout; the only other thing you’ll need is a 12-volt power supply. Either a battery eliminator or a car battery will work.

There’s some evidence that higher frequencies stimulate greater growth, so you might experiment with your homemade generator by changing the value of the capacitor listed as C1. If you substitute a capacitor smaller than the one shown, the frequency will increase. Also, don’t be tempted to use a conventional speaker instead of the tweeter called for in the design. Normal speakers aren’t capable of reproducing the high frequencies that we’re looking for.

For your experiment to have any validity, the two groups of plants you use will have to be well separated from each other. The ultrasonic generator will fill an entire room with the high-pitched squeal, but walls and doors will block quite a bit of the noise. Still, distance provides the best assurance that your control group isn’t benefiting from the ultrasonic stimulation.

During the course of your experiment, you might find it interesting to change the timing cycle from that used in the original research. Unlike photovoltaic stimulation, ultrasound also benefits plants that are in bright sunlight. Tests have even shown that, with ultrasonic treatment, plants will grow in the dark!

Nutrient Absorption

As your experiment progresses, you’ll discover that ultrasonically stimulated plants show some side effects. Though treated plants do grow taller, they seem to do so at the expense of fullness of foliage. The control plants will be robust but short, while the experimental group will be tall, spindly, and darkly pigmented. Apparently, the stimulated plants aren’t able to absorb nutrients fast enough to keep up with their accelerated growth rate.

Once the sound is removed, however, the plants will produce normal foliage. And if your results are similar to the ones I’ve investigated, the experimental plants will remain larger than their normal counterparts.

What is the answer to conquering this apparent problem of plant starvation? I don’t know . . . but maybe some clever research by a MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader will turn up some clues. I wonder what would happen if you combined photovoltaic root stimulation with ultrasound.

The Effects of Ultrasound

Unfortunately, ultrasound isn’t without side effects. Though there is no strong evidence that the high-frequency waves are damaging to humans, scientists are exercising some caution about its widespread use. Also, though the frequency used for plant stimulation is well above the limit of human hearing, some animals can perceive it and may be hurt.

For rabbits, mice, gerbils, and monkeys, continued exposure to this sort of sound can cause lackluster appetite, loss of weight, and (in extreme cases) even death. If you have pets, you should keep in mind that ultrasound is earsplitting to those creatures that can hear it.


Plants are surprising organisms—without brains and central nervous systems, they are still able to sense the environment that surrounds them. Plants can perceive light, scent, touch, wind, even gravity, and are able to respond to sounds, too.
No, music will not help plants grow—even classical—but other audio cues can help plants survive and thrive in their habitats. But why? Scientists Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft of the University of Missouri wondered whether plants would respond to the sound of insect herbivores feeding, so they ran a couple of experiments.
First they placed caterpillars on Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. Using a laser and a tiny piece of reflective material on the leaf of the plant, they were able to measure the movement of the leaf in response to the chewing caterpillar.
Then, they played back recordings of caterpillar feeding vibrations to one set of Arabidopsis plants, but played back only silence to another set of plants. When caterpillars later fed on both sets of plants, the researchers found that the plants previously exposed to feeding vibrations produced more mustard oils, a chemical that is unappealing to many caterpillars.
For the second experiment, the team played a variety of recordings to different Arabidopsis plants, including wind and “mating song of a leafhopper, chosen because it has a similar frequency spectrum to that of chewing, but a contrasting temporal pattern,” according to their study, published last week in Oecologia. The plants did not react to these vibrations at all.
“What is remarkable is that the plants exposed to different vibrations, including those made by a gentle wind or different insect sounds that share some acoustic features with caterpillar feeding vibrations did not increase their chemical defenses,” Cocroft says. “This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration.”
“Caterpillars react to this chemical defense by crawling away, so using vibrations to enhance plant defenses could be useful to agriculture,” Appel says. “This research also opens the window of plant behavior a little wider, showing that plants have many of the same responses to outside influences that animals do, even though the responses look different.”
So while it may not exactly be hearing, plants do sense sound vibrations. Next up for Appel and Cocroft? More work to determine how plants sense these vibrations, what features of the complex vibrational signal are important, and how the mechanical vibrations interact with other forms of plant information to generate protective responses to pests. Stay tuned…
Image: Roger Meissen

Can plants hear? In a study, vibrations prompt some to boost their defenses

Plants can sense and react to temperature changes, harsh winds, and even human touch. But can they hear?

They have no specialized structure to perceive sound like we do, but a new study has found that plants can discern the sound of predators through tiny vibrations of their leaves — and beef up their defenses in response.

It is similar to how our own immune systems work — an initial experience with insects or bacteria can help plants defend themselves better in future attacks by the same predator. So while a mustard plant might not respond the first time it encounters a hungry caterpillar, the next time it will up the concentration of defense chemicals in its system that turn its once-delicious leaves into an unsavory, toxic meal.

Now, biologists from the University of Missouri have found that this readying process, called “priming,” can be triggered by sound alone. For one group of plants, they carefully mimicked what a plant would “hear” in a real attack by vibrating a single leaf with the sound of a caterpillar chewing. The other group was left in silence.

When later faced with a real caterpillar, the plants that heard chewing noises produced a greater amount of insecticide-like chemicals than the silence group. They also seemed able to pick out those vibrations signaling danger; playing wind noises or insect mating calls did not trigger the same chemical boost.

A cabbage butterfly caterpillar eats an Arabidopsis plant. On an adjacent leaf, a piece of reflective tape helps record vibrations. (Roger Meissen)

Although the mechanism of how plants can discern sounds is not known, a deeper investigation could lead to advances in agriculture and natural crop resistance — as opposed to spraying costly and harmful pesticides.

“We can imagine applications of this where plants could be treated with sound or genetically engineered to respond to certain sounds that would be useful for agriculture,” said study author and biologist Heidi Appel.

The study was published online Tuesday in the journal Oecologia.

Despite not having brains or nervous systems in the traditional sense, plants are surprisingly sophisticated. They can communicate with each other and signal impending danger to their neighbors by releasing chemicals into the air. Plants constantly react to their environment — not only light and temperature changes, but also physical stimuli.

Two famous examples are the Venus’ flytrap, which snaps shut when an unsuspecting bug contacts one of its trigger hairs, and the touch-me-not plant (Mimosa pudica), which shrinks and closes its leaves upon even a slight touch.

“Plants certainly have the capacity to feel mechanical loads,” said plant biologist Frank Telewski, who was not involved in the research. “They can respond to gravity, wind, ice or an abundance of fruit.”

But trying to prove that plants can sense sound has been difficult.

University of Missouri-Columbia researchers Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft found that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating nibbling on their leaves. (Roger Meissen)

“There is a long history of people interested in whether plants could hear sound, and that usually involved sounds that are very salient to us — music or tones of pure sound — just to see if plants would react,” said study author and biologist Reginald Corcroft.

Even though some swear that a soothing voice or classical music works wonders for their greenery, the scientific evidence is spotty. Experts believe that music in particular is too complex and varied to be able to use in a controlled study.

When pure tones are played, some experiments have seen changes in plant growth, germination or gene expression. For instance, one recent study showed that young roots of corn will grow toward an auditory source playing continuous tones and even responded better to certain frequencies.

But what would be the evolutionary advantage of responding to such stimuli?

One argument against plants perceiving sound is that being able to pick up on the music of Beethoven or a solid note has no bearing on a plant’s well-being — but the leaf-chomping of a nearby insect certainly does.

“None of the sounds used before are things that are ecologically relevant sounds in the plant environment,” Appel said.

Although it has not been proved, the suspicion is that plants can perceive sound through proteins that respond to pressure found within their cell membranes. Sound waves cause their leaves to vibrate ever so slightly, causing the plant to respond accordingly.

Because chewing insects produce high-amplitude vibrations that travel rapidly to other parts of a plant, the researchers were able to record the fine movement of a leaf during a caterpillar feeding episode using a laser tracking system. They then played back the recording to a group of 22 Arabidopsis plants, related to mustard and cabbage, that had not been exposed to caterpillars before.

Appel then placed real caterpillars on the leaves of the group to feed. After waiting a day or two for the plants to mount their defenses, she measured the chemistry of their leaves for insecticide-like chemicals called glucosinolates — the same substance that gives mustard its kick. If eaten in large doses, however, it becomes toxic.

Not only was the concentration of glucosinolates higher than a control group, but there was also a correlation between concentration and how strong the vibrations were. If the leaf moved a greater amount during playback, they saw more of the chemical being produced by the plant.

To see if a plant would react to any type of sound, the researchers tried playing a leafhopper mating call or blowing wind. In response to these, it did not appear to put up extra defenses.

Telewski, a tree expert who investigates perception of mechanical stimuli in plants, believes this work showcases a possible evolutionary advantage of perceiving sound: “I’m very impressed with the study — it’s very nice.”

He wonders if other plants not being attacked could pick up on the vibration as an auditory SOS-type signal, since plants have been known to use airborne chemical signals in the same way. If the alarm can spread efficiently through a field, say, sound could potentially be harnessed in agriculture to ward off predators.

“It might be practical to see how loud you would have to play speakers in a field to get plants geared up to fight against an insect,” he said. “This might be one way to fight off an insect attack without spending a lot of money on pesticides.”

Biochemist Janet Braam, who was also not involved in the study, finds the results intriguing.

“Testing whether similar results are obtained for other plant-insect interactions will be important next steps to understand how broadly applicable this phenomenon may be,” said Braam said.

Kim is a freelance science journalist based in Philadelphia.

SCIENCE

Pseudoscientific claims that music helps plants grow have been made for decades, despite evidence that is shaky at best. Yet new research suggests some flora may be capable of sensing sounds, such as the gurgle of water through a pipe or the buzzing of insects. (Scientific American)

It’s a great time to play ‘Viridi’—and vocally tend your garden!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit. Heads-up: There are a lot of great links in today’s post!

Don’t tell secrets in a corn field. It’s full of ears. “Ear” comes from the ancient European word “aeher” which meant “spike of grain.”
Photograph by Steve Raymer, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • The short Scientific American article poses the question “can plants hear?” So, what are plants? Leaf through this Encyclopedia of Life resource for some help.
    • Plants are eukaryotic organisms that are mostly multicellular and mostly photosynthetic. (Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells have differentiated organelles such as a nucleus.)
      • Most plants belong to the informal group viridiplantae, or green plants. The cells of green plants have a telltale cell wall made of cellulose. They also have organelles called chloroplasts, which contain the green pigment chlorophyll that gives the plants their name and are crucial to photosynthesis.
      • There are more than 350,000 species of plants on Earth, most of them viridiplantae.
      • Plants are found in almost every biome on Earth, from mosses in the Arctic (and, lately, Antarctic), to cacti and their relatives in the desert, to seagrasses along coastal ecosystems.
      • Flowers? Plants. Trees? Plants. Ferns? Plants. Mosses? Plants.
      • Fungi? NOT plants. Bacteria? NOT plants. Red or brown algae? NOT plants.
      • Leaf through the “tree of life” to see how plants are related.
  • OK, so what is sound?
    • Sound is a series of vibrations created by waves of pressure (sound waves) and transmitted through a medium such as air or water.
      • “In space, no one can hear you scream.” That’s actually true. In the near-vacuum of outer space, there is no medium to transmit sound. (If you find yourself in interstellar space trying to scream, however, you have bigger problems than acoustics.)
  • Why would it be a surprise if plants could hear?
    • Corny jokes aside, plants don’t have ears.
    • Many scientists are skeptical that plants have structural organs that allow them to detect and process sound waves.
  • What scientific studies hint that plants may be able to detect sound waves—to “hear”?
    • Scientific American describes one recent study that tested pea seedlings whose roots were seemingly able to detect water flowing through hidden tubing. “They just knew the water was there, even if the only thing to detect was the sound of it flowing inside the pipe,” says one researcher.
    • Arabidopsis, a relative of cabbage, is able to “distinguish between caterpillar chewing sounds and wind vibrations—the plant produced more chemical toxins after ‘hearing’ a recording of feeding insects.”
    • Many plants, such as African violets, engage in “buzz pollination, in which a bee buzzing at a particular frequency has been shown to stimulate pollen release.” Cue this video to about 10:05 to learn more about buzz pollination.

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Scientific American: Can Plants Hear?

Nat Geo: Game of the Week: Viridi

Encyclopedia of Life: What is a Plant?

Playing music to your plants: does it help them grow better?

Promoted by Wyevale Garden Centres

Will your hyacinths like Haydn? Or will they wilt to Walton? Here’s the (surprising) science…

Your green-fingered friends might give you funny looks if you get out your violin to serenade your hydrangeas, but research suggests that sound, and in particular soothing textures and rhythms of classical music, can help to boost plant growth.

In 1962, Dr. T. C. Singh, head of the Botany Department at Annamalia University, experimented with the effect of classical musical sounds on the growth rate of plants. He found that balsam plants grew at a rate that accelerated by 20% in height and 72% in biomass when exposed to music.

Canadian engineer Eugene Canby exposed wheat to the Baroque sounds and lilting dance rhythms of J.S. Bach’s violin sonata and observed a 66% increase in yield.

Baroque or rock?

In the 1970s a group of university students played groups of plants different genres of music. Plants exposed to Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert grew towards and entwined themselves around the speakers. Another plant group grew away from a speaker that played rock music. In later studies, plants were played Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix – abnormal vertical growth and smaller leaves and plants leaned away from the rock music source. Clearly, it’s those violin solos, rather than guitar solos…

The science

Music and sound is transmitted in the form of sound waves – these cause minute vibrations, most obviously on your ear drums. Plants are composed of protoplasm, a translucent, moving and living matter that makes up all animals and plant cells. One theory is that the vibrations picked up by the plant (from your favourite concerto, perhaps) might speed up the protoplasmic movement in the cells and assist growth, making a stronger and better plant.

So next time you’re in Wyevale Garden Centres picking up your favourite perennials, make sure you turn to Classic FM or your favourite opera, to get your plants blooming.

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.

Whoever made this declaration could not have possibly imagined how this would ring true not just about humans but the flora too! Whether we are in a melancholic mood or going through a gleeful phase, music remains a perpetual companion. So wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to give your plants some soulful music too! Plants are much more aware of their surroundings than we think.

The phenomenon of arranging music for plants might seem absurd to many of you but, to go on record, plants have a predilection for music. Scientists have discovered that the harmonic effect of a melodious tunes caters to an affirmative physiology for the plants.

The effect of Music on Plants:

The first experiment of music on plants was conducted by Dr. T. C Singh in 1962. He found that plants have sensory perceptions and reacted to sound waves and vibrations when they are exposed to music from recorders. The balsam plants that were the object of his study augmented 20% in height and 72% in biomass on listening to classical music.

Later, he repeated his experiment only with the exception of ragas played on flute, violin, veena and harmonium. This time too, the plants did not turn him down and they responded with bounty growth. After clearing through these successful experiments he testified that even the classical dance, ‘Bharatnatyam’ will propel plant growth.

In 1973, Dorothy Retallack initiated an experiment with the same species of plants in different laboratories and employing different genres of music. Her path breaking experiment went to shed light that plants which were exposed to classical music have a better growth rate. They grew twice as healthy and robust, exuding positive energy. However, plants that were on a staple diet of rock music soon hit rock bottom as they became pallid and finally died!

How the kind of music affects a plant’s growth

Even plants have a refined taste for classical music! But if you think that is all, then here comes the googly: plants that were privileged to immerse into the sedative allure of classical music grew towards the radio that was playing the music much like a sunflower that would grow facing the sun. She has documented her series of experiments in the much acclaimed book ‘The Sound of Music and Plants’.

If you’re wondering how this magic happens, let me explain: Practically plants do not possess any mechanism to hear the sound but they can sense the vibrations. So when music is played, the sound waves travel through the air and are received by the protoplasm of the plant. The protoplasm is in a state of eternal movement. This creates a condition for accelerated manufacture and mobility of plant nutrients. Hence, the result is a plant that boasts of vitality. The oscillating sound frequencies stirs up the movement of cytoplasm located within the plants.

Seeds exposed to music have gone on to exhibit bigger size and leafy foliage on germination.

Where can this be useful?

Whether it’s a crop field or the miniscule garden in your room, or the kitchen garden in your backyard, you can treat your plants to music. If you have a balcony garden, then install music system and play music for two-three hours daily. If you are the owner of a lavish landscaped garden, then the symphony in the garden will become an ambient music with the playlist comprising of Ravi Shankar to Hariprasad Chaurasia and from Mozart to Beethoven.

Just image the visual of a serene ambience that not just pleases the flora but also the guests who drop by. However, don’t overdose the plants with music or else it will produce reverse effects! Also remember that plants can’t stand noise and wither away so don’t even think of playing rock music even if that defines your music taste. You can try out Jazz too. The genre is flora-friendly.

In Kolkata, Mohor Kunja has ambient music of Rabindrasangeet and it is evident the plants glow with health. For those of you who have visited the place, now you have the answer.

P.S. The bird songs have similar impact.

The positive effects of music on people are well-documented. Hearing classical, soothing music has been found to decrease stress levels and increase calmness in people. However, music seems to not only have an effect on human beings, but also on plants. Several studies in this area have found that plants exposed to classical music tend to grow better.

Early studies

In 1962, an Indian botanist by the name of T. C. Singh conducted an experiment in which he played classical music in front of balsam plants. He found that the plants had responded to the vibrations of the music and grew almost 20 percent more in height and 72 percent in biomass. He repeated the experiments on agricultural crops like rice, peanuts, and tobacco, and found that music played through loudspeakers produced a real positive effect on the crops.

Nine years later in 1973, a student named Dorothy Retallack performed similar experiments. She found that plants subject to classical music showed increased growth, while those exposed to rock music had smaller leaves and eventually withered. Following her findings, two other students repeated her experiments, exposing plants to different genres of music.

“The group of plants exposed to Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven, and Hayden grew towards the speaker and even intertwined around the speaker. They obviously couldn’t get enough of it. The group exposed to rock music, however, grew away from the speaker and up the glass enclosure wall in what is believed to be an attempt to escape the sound. Even by turning the plants around, they continued to grow away from the speaker emanating rock music,” according to Inspire Story.

New studies

The genes of plants are affected by music. (Image: / CC0 1.0)

In 2007, a South Korean scientist played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in front of rice plants. Sound frequencies between 125 hertz and 250 hertz made the genes of the plant increasingly active. The rice plants grew taller pretty fast and the blooms came earlier. Sound waves with frequencies of 50 hertz or less were observed to reduce the activity of the genes.

Dan Carlson, an agro-sonic researcher, invented a technology called Sonic Bloom that promises to increase the production yields of crops using sound frequencies. In Sudan, Sonic Bloom was used to promote growth during a drought. Wherever the technology was not deployed, the plants did not grow.

A team of Russian scientists carried out experiments on onion plants. They subjected the plants to classical music for six hours every day for 10 days. After the test period, the researchers pulled out the onion plants and analyzed them at the cellular level. They discovered that the plants had grown longer and had stronger roots. Onion plants that listened to music with lyrics had even longer roots.

So why do plants respond to music? “Music and sound are transmitted in the form of sound waves — these cause minute vibrations, most obviously on your eardrums. Plants are composed of protoplasm, a translucent, moving and living matter that makes up all animals and plant cells. One theory is that the vibrations picked up by the plant (from your favorite concerto, perhaps) might speed up the protoplasmic movement in the cells and assist growth, making a stronger and better plant,” according to Classic FM.

Grapes have been found to be sweeter when the vines are exposed to classical music. (Image: pexels / CC0 1.0)

Giancarlo Cignozzi, a winemaker from Italy, plays Mozart in his vines, as he believes the plants like it. Cignozzi first noticed the positive effect of music on the grapes when he played Il Paradiso di Frassina. The grapes not only grew toward the speaker, but they also became bigger and had higher sugar content. The plants also became less suspect to insect attack, which allowed him give up the use of pesticides in the vineyard. Another Italian vineyard, Paradiso di Frassina in Tuscany, started playing classical music in 2001 to keep pests away. But when the owners saw that the fruits had grown better with music, they continued playing it.

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