Secret Life of Plants: Do You and Your Plants Have The Same Taste in Music?

In 1973, journalist Peter Thompkins and acclaimed author Christopher Bird published The Secret Life of Plants, a controversial book detailing the case for “plant sentience.” Although it was largely dismissed as pseudoscience, the book traces research from several notable botanists who all similarly claimed that plants had far more sensory receptors than commonly believed. One of the more memorable claims was that plants enjoy music. 

Bird and Thompkins cite a 1962 study on the effect of musical sounds on plant growth conducted by Dr. T. C. Singh, then Head of the Botany Department at India’s Annamalia University. Singh’s research found that plants exposed to music experienced a 20% increase in  height and 72% increase in biomass. While his research has been largely debated, recent findings suggest that there is some legitimacy surrounding his bold claims.  

Similar to the way our ears are able to detect frequencies and perceive them as sounds or music, research suggests plants are able to detect frequencies and have been observed altering their behaviors in response. Scientists believe plants developed these mechanoreceptors as evolutionary tools to fight for territory, seek out food, evade predators and trap prey. For example, some plants are able to sense the vibrations of caterpillars eating their leaves and respond by emitting pest-repelling chemicals. 

With more and more evidence suggesting plant’s can indeed “sense” musical vibrations, many scientists have sought to uncover which type of music plants prefer most. While generally inconclusive, popular opinion suggests they prefer classical or jazz music. Preference is thought to be tied to the amount/type of frequencies prevalent in the music. Louder varieties (i.e. rock) feature more vibrations and great pressure waves. Excessive exposure to these waves is believed to have a detrimental effect on plants, resulting in abnormalities similar to overwatering or excessive wind exposure. 

Although The Secret Life of Plants is largely inaccurate, its intention was to highlight how perceptive nature truly is. Many of its pseudoscientific claims have taken root in popular culture – inspiring everything from music of top artists like Stevie Wonder, to the ways wine grapes are grown. I like to believe my plants share my eclectic taste in music. They like to vibe to a little of everything to keep their days interesting. What songs are you playing around your home? Do you think you and your house plants share the same taste in music? Be sure to comment below.


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