You are not alone

‘Charles is all ears, but his plants aren’t’, Daily Telegraph 25.11.20

Thirty six years have passed sine Prince Charles admitted conversing with his geraniums, and he is yet to live it down. But now there is evidence the prince was on the right lines at least.

In the bowl of an extinct volcano in California, a botanist is busy trying to establish that plants have personalities.

Rick Karban of the University of California has spent decades studying signals and other communication between sagebrush plants, as well as the different ways they respond to predators.

Some appear more skittish than others in the way they respond to the arrival of a beetle or the boot of a botanist, giving off blends of scents that are detected by other plants.

Professor Karban said the plants had also been shown to be more sensitive to blends of scents that are their own, in a manner “that may be analogous to language dialects”.

It also appears that other sagebrush plants might take more account of a distress signal from a hardier plant than from one with an excitable personality. “We do have evidence of that,” he said.

Although Professor Karban says plants are capable of memory and anticipation, he says there is still no evidence they respond to the human voice, even if that human is the Prince of Wales.

“There has been a lot of interest in whether or not plants are aware of us,” he said.

“Can we  talk to them and have them understand? Do they like different kinds of music? There is basically no controlled, repeatable experiment confirming that.

“Humans talking to them doesn’t make any sense.”

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The above gives new life to that profound philosophical conundrum: If a tree falls in a forest and there is no human to hear it, does it make a sound?

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