Plant Chat

This morning I read a Discover magazine article about plant communication and the first thing I wondered was what Mr. D would think of it.

Flashback 40+ years –

“My plants grow better when I talk to them,” my friend M asserted.

Mr. D pursed his lips and peered at her skeptically through his glasses. The eighth-grade enrichment class was called Anthropology and most of the time he kept us on the study of man. But occasional diversions were allowed.

A few of us came to M’s aid.

“Maybe it’s the carbon dioxide in her breath,” I suggested.

“Maybe it’s the vibrations from her voice,” another girl proposed.

Mr. D folded his arms. He said we could test our ideas tomorrow before class.

The next morning M brought in one of her plants and Mr. D, who taught high school chemistry the rest of the day, produced a galvanometer. He attached the two alligator clips to leaves and checked the gauge.

For several minutes three girls stood around the plant, saying whatever came into our heads. The needle didn’t move.

“It might not be a big enough effect,” he allowed. “Try yelling.”

We all started yelling in our high girlish voices. Still nothing.

Suddenly, Mr. D bellowed in his booming voice, “Come on, you ignoramus!”

And the needle twitched.


Now today I read that plants communicate, telling other plants things that they need to know. There is a drought coming. Look out for the aphids! Just like us, they are more likely to talk to family than strangers, recognizing the difference both chemically and with their light receptors. A Venus Flytrap can even count. Who knew?

There was nothing in the article about interspecies communication. Sadly, Mr. D is gone. But if he were still alive, I’d like to call him.

“Hey Mr. D,” I’d say. “How about another experiment?”



23 thoughts on “Plant Chat

  1. This has such warmth and humor. It put me back in school with my favorite teacher. You conveyed your sense of place and emotion in a thoughtful way. The transition to the flashback was the only thing that gave me some trouble. There’s something about it that feels like a placeholder for a section you haven’t quite figured out yet. And honestly, I think it only stood out to me because the rest of the piece worked so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this. It’s interesting that the things we were taught in science at school may be just a stepping stone to true understanding. I wish I had understood that when I was at school and see it for exploring potential rather than just rote work. This is a wonderful way of showing that. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments. There’s a movement in education toward teaching problem solving and inquiry that I hope takes hold. It’s so much better to know how to ask questions than merely assume you have all the answers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s