Careful what you say in front of the pea plant

By Jennifer Lipman, February 22, 2012

An Israeli research team has discovered that plants may be listening in on the conversations around them.

Professor Ariel Novoplansky and his staff at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that garden pea plants were able to identify and respond to signals given by nearby plants.

The plants they studied were able to eavesdrop on their neighbours and send warning signals in moments of "stress".

The study involved five garden pea plants, some of which were placed under tough conditions. The plants were isolated so that there could be no physical contact.

"Unstressed plants are able to perceive and respond to stress cues emitted by the roots of their drought-stressed neighbors and, via 'relay cuing,' elicit stress responses in further unstressed plants," said Prof Novoplansky.

"The results demonstrate the existence of a…type of networking, whereby apparent coordination might hinge on information leakiness and neighbour eavesdropping."

The findings follow similar work that showed cabbages were able to communicate with each other.

Last updated: 5:38pm, February 22 2012