Plants and Music


Recall the last time you were in nature. I don’t mean the last time you saw tree or a flower. I mean the last time you were really out in nature, maybe on a hiking or a camping trip. The forest is a connected living breathing organism. Animals scurry around, trees reach for the sky, and a feeling of tranquility and freshness is witnessed by the beholder. The forest is anything but silent, from the breeze gently making branches whistle, to crickets playing their music at night. So what effect does sound and music have on a plant?

It’s easy to overlook the things a plant can do. After all, they don’t move, see, talk, or smell. Plants are complex organisms controlled by thousands of hormones and processes. I’m asking you to have an open mind on this subject because music does seem to have an effect on plants and their development.  When music is played it creates vibrations in the air, plants are able to detect these vibrations in the air much like how a deaf person is able to detect when music is on. These slight vibrations in the air are thought to impact development of a plant and even trigger the release of pollen.

This theory isn’t a new one. Great  scientists such as Charles Darwin himself have done experiments testing the effects of music on plants. Darwin’s experiment which required himself playing a bassoon to plants was inconclusive and he himself called the experiment foolish, but it hasn’t stopped others from following in his footsteps. Dorthy Retallack set fourth to prove that classical music was beneficial to plants and that rock and roll hindered plant growth. She constructed many experiments using several different types of plants and music. In her book, The Secret Life of Plants, she concluded that plants that were played music by the classical artist Bach had much more growth than plants exposed to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Fortunately for rock and roll fans, Retallack’s conclusions are seen as invalid to many experts. Galston says, “The trouble with The Secret Life of Plants is that it consists almost exclusively of bizarre claims presented without adequate supporting evidence.” Retallack’s bias could have lead her to knowingly or unknowingly skew the data in favor of her prediction.

Dorothy Retallack and Professor Broman working with the plants used in music experiments.

A less biased experiment was done by none other than the famous Mythbusters. They tested the effects of speaking nicely, meanly, playing classical music, and playing hardcore heavy metal.

The Mythbusters concluded that the control with no sound did the worst, the plants being talked to meanly and nicely did about the same, and that the plants that were played music did the best. Furthermore, the plants being played hardcore heavy metal did better than the plants being played classical. The Mythbusters conducted an unbiased experiment with a control and many constants, but their results are still seen as inconclusive. There are a lot of problems when trying to conduct an experiment like this. There needs to be a lot of constants such as Carbon dioxide levels, soil moisture, atmospheric pressure, soil moisture , temperature , and exposure to sunlight. Another problem was that at about half way through their experiment the water valves shut off. This means that all the plants didn’t get water for a while, this alone shouldn’t have impacted the results, but the Mythbusters should have weighed the dry mass of the plants instead of the plants that still had water in them. The last reason why this experiment wasn’t conclusive is that there weren’t nearly enough specimen in the experiment. You can’t make any conclusions while just using 10 plants in each greenhouse.

After learning about all these experiments, I decided i didn’t want them to have all the fun. I decided to set up an experiment of my own, testing whether volume of a song had an impact on a plant. I set up my experiment using a three radish  plants. One would be played a song with my speakers set to 60 power, another plant was played music at 30 power, and the last plant was played no music. The song i chose to play on repeat to my plants was 23 by Miley Cyrus. Even though Miley’s singing is thought to cause a lot of brain injury to human listeners, the radish plants were unaffected by her  music.

(Miley’s music doesn’t actually cause brain injury in humans, that was just a joke.)

Work cited( WordPress and Podcast)

Chamovitz, Daniel. What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Print.

“Talking to Plants.” Mythbusters. Discovery. N.d. Vimeo. Castlemaine North PS. Web. 07 Dec. 2013.

Russell, Sharman. “December 2013.” Discover Magazine. Kalmbach, Apr. 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Google Images. 2011. Photograph. Portland. Google Images. By Mike Vogel. 11 May 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2013.

Robertson, Don. “The DoveSong Foundation — The Effect of Music on Plants (The Plant Experiments).” Rising World Entertainment, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Will, Mike. “23”. September 10, 2013. Mike Will Made it/cd/ Interscope records, 2013.


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