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Daniel McIntosh

NYTimes: You Can Talk to Plants. Maybe You Might Listen.

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I tried to record quite a few plants when I worked on the movie "The Secret Life of Plants"  ---  never seemed to be able to get much out of them sound-wise. I did have a good time talking to them, however, and there actually were quite a few interesting things revealed to me about the plant world.

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31 minutes ago, Jeff Wexler said:

I tried to record quite a few plants when I worked on the movie "The Secret Life of Plants"  ---  never seemed to be able to get much out of them sound-wise. I did have a good time talking to them, however, and there actually were quite a few interesting things revealed to me about the plant world.

 

I was about to mention the excellent David Attenborough's "Life of Plants" which showed actual behaviors by using accelerated takes. Maybe with contact microphones it would be possible to achieve some results?

 

However, the NY Times article is quite confusing and certainly lacks rigor. This paragraph triggered my alarm:

 

Sound has also influenced interactions between plants and animals. For instance, only the vibrating buzz of a particular bee will trigger some plants to release pollen. Pitcher plants even create their own bat call to attract bats.

 

 

And indeed, following the link, one can see that a pitcher plant has evolved to reflect the calls of bats, but it doesn't produce any sound by itself. The evolution of such a device is impressive enough, of course.

 

That said, I have a plant at home that can make real noises. If you skip a watering or two its stems will tend to get flaccid. If that happens, when watered the stems can stiffen in a matter of an hour or so. If a leaf gets entangled with another one while the stems were flaccid, the increasing stiffness can make it get released like a spring, actually making noise. But of course it's not a noise making mechanism, but an accidental effect.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Jim Feeley said:

What did they use as the plant mic?

 

 

:)

 

You would be amazed at the experiments being made with contact microphones, though. There is a new unchartered territory being explored by wildlife recordists and sound designers now. Moreover it's inexpensive to explore, JRF's contact microphones and hydrophones are not expensive at all.

 

That said, you can hear curious and wrong theories. Some time ago I heard a recording of curious underwater sounds recorded with a hydrophone and someone suggested it might be "photosynthesis" (like the tiny bubbles that you can sometimes see on the surface of aquatic plants, bursting). It didn't make sense because the crackles were periodic. Most likely it was some underwater insect. 

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Jim Feeley said:

What did they use as the plant mic?...

 

I suspect plants do not like being bugged. So unless you have root access, they might complain of being stalked.

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On 6/20/2019 at 3:36 PM, Jeff Wexler said:

I tried to record quite a few plants when I worked on the movie "The Secret Life of Plants"  ---  never seemed to be able to get much out of them sound-wise. I did have a good time talking to them, however, and there actually were quite a few interesting things revealed to me about the plant world.

 

Stevie Wonder's "Come back as a flower" is one of my favourite songs! And I didn't even know it was from soundtrack! You made my weekend! Thanks. 

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18 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

I always imagine plants communicating in crazy low freqs like 10Hz / year or something...

 

In either a plant or a human, that would indicate a persistent vegetative state.

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