Do Trees Talk? Some Scientists Think They Do

“Stones have been known to move and trees to speak,”said Shakespeare’s Macbeth, voicing an old superstition. Today a team of scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, led by Professor David b F. Rhoades, claim to have evidence that proves that trees really do “talk.’’ Humans cannot hear their conversations, but one can be understood by another.

Do Trees Talk? Some Scientists Think They Do

By Mr Ghaz, January 17, 2010

Do Trees Talk? Some Scientists Think They Do

“Stones have been known to move and trees to speak,”said Shakespeare’s Macbeth, voicing an old superstition. Today a team of scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, led by Professor David F. Rhoades, claim to have evidence that proves that trees really do “talk.’’ Humans cannot hear their conversations, but one can be understood by another.

Under the weather

The scientists gathered their evidence in the course of experiments on the effects of stress on trees. Plant stress can be caused by drought, frost, pollution, or lack of nutrients in the soil. Under such conditions they are move vulnerable to attacks by insects and another plant-eating creature because their natural defenses are low. This vulnerability is much like people caching a load when they have been soaked by rain: it is not a rain that causes the cold, but the fact that the soaking lowers the body’s resistance to any cold viruses.

Stress in plants is accompanied by chemical changes, just as it in humans. The scientists discovered that when under stress, plants produce more nutrients, such as amino acids, and smaller amounts of the chemical that help to protect them against the ravages of insects.

The scientists then began a series of experiments with willows, placing hungry caterpillars on some trees but not on others. The latter were the controls. At first the caterpillars flourished. But before long it became apparent that they were doing surprisingly little damage to the trees. Analysis showed that after the initial attack the trees produced more defensive chemicals such as proanthocyanidin, a kind of natural insecticide.

Then came the surprise. After a few weeks the control trees were also producing more proanthocyanidin. They were defending themselves in advance of attack. It seemed that the affected trees were somehow signaling to the others:”There is danger around here!”

Professor Rhoades and his colleagues wondered if the trees were ‘communicating’ through the roots and the soil. But experiments in and out of the laboratory proved conclusively that this was not so. In any case, the trees were apparently “talking” over a distance of more than 100 yards.

The scientists then proposed that airborne pheromones might hold the clue. These chemical substances given off by plants and animals act as signals between members of the same species.

Although present in very small quantities, pheromones are amazingly powerful. For example, the pheromones emitted by female moths will attract male hundreds of yards away.

After further tests professor Rhoades and his colleagues came to the conclusion that the pheromone hydrocarbon ethylene, emitted by trees through the leaves, was a likely carrier of the danger signal from one three to another. Research along these lines is still continuing.

Vocal or Dumb?

Not all scientists are convinced by this evidence, however. Two British biologists from York University, Dr Simon, V. Fowler professor John H. Lawton, maintain that the suppositions of the U.S. team can be explained equally well by the spread of infectious diseases carried by the caterpillars themselves. The two scientists conducted their own experiments with birch trees. Their finding: no evidence that trees: “talk.”

The story is still unfinished. Both sides are very cautious in their claims. But as Professor Rhoades points out, if trees really do “talk” to each other, we may have reassess our view that trees are totally inanimate.

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32 Responses to “Do Trees Talk? Some Scientists Think They Do”
  1. Mark Gordon Brown Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I believe they do talk. Good link!

  2. Phill Senters Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Very interesting, trees talking. Next they’ll be in court demanding their rights. :)

  3. qasimdharamsy Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Great work …very nice…well done…

  4. Joie Schmidt Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm




    -Liane Schmidt.

  5. LoveDoctor Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Further research needs to be conducted in order to determine whether trees can in fact communicate with each other. While some biologists are not convinced by the evidence, other scientists seem to think so. Another well-written and interesting article. keep up the good work:)

  6. ken bultman Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Straight from the imaginative mind of Dr. Seuss.

  7. Eunice Barbara Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    trees do talk to each other and to us. I remember when I was a little girl, I could make faces on the barks of the trees.

  8. T. S. GARP Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Very interesting, I think it could be true that trees can talk and communicate just like plants. All living things are connected, way not? Good article!

  9. Sherry Wallace Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Great story, mrghaz. I believe plants communicate using chemicals. I don’t think this is a far fetched theory at all. I don’t think we know as much as we think we do about the animal and plant world.

  10. Inna Tysoe Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    That’s really interesting. I personally believe that trees talk but I also agree that more research needs to be done on the issue.

  11. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On January 17, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Not only trees, but also every living thing you found on earth can talk and think. You’ve to feel from within in order to “plug in” their connection network.

  12. susan Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Obviously more research needs to be done. Good article.

  13. papaleng Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 2:01 am

    I honestly believe not only trees but all living things have the intelligence to converse with man in a way modern science have not yet discovered. The Bible in some verses stated that God gave Adam dominion over the plants and animals, the authority to give them names.. So how could you rule over them if you don’t have the means to communicate with them. This is only my thoughts, others will disagree.

  14. Anuradha Ramkumar Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 4:54 am

    I believe that trees talk. In our country, a custom is followed in certain parts that if a tree doesn’t flower for years, they’ll go near the tree and shout that they’ll cut the tree if it doesn’t flower. To our astonishment, in another week’s time, you can see the tree blooming.

  15. Patrick Bernauw Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Great article! Blogged it on !

  16. Anamika S Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Nice Post! As a child i have always had hearty conversations with trees and plants.

  17. albert1jemi Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 8:44 am

    thats sounds really great

  18. revivor Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 8:58 am

    they certainly speak to me!!

  19. Darla Beck Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Interesting article.

  20. marthe Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 10:28 am

    until we know we still can talk to them!and hug them and sit under them and climb them and watch them and water them and plant them….:)

  21. monica55 Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    This is a very interesting topic. I have never thought about talking before, but something to look into. Thanks for the read.

  22. mkd1788 Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    in avatar movie i saw that trees was talking…and i agree with them..because trees also has emotion…but they don’t have medium for expressing like us…but they does..

  23. xoxo Says...

    On January 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Trees talk… I believe so. Most plants do. Good post Mr G.

  24. cutedrishti8 Says...

    On January 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I believe so….

  25. RoughRoad Says...

    On January 21, 2010 at 9:35 am

    So magical to imagine trees talking!

  26. jason Says...

    On May 23, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I actually thought they couldnt talk to me but i guess they can is it in the air like do they sound like a ghost or something but other then that i like this link thanks i learned alot from it



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    On October 15, 2010 at 2:26 am

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  28. Wanderer Says...

    On October 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Great post, but I don’t believe that trees do talk. They respond to the environment. However, we can’t assume anything, yet.

  29. Lori Says...

    On November 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    If you believe in a higher power then ALL things are possible. I took a photograph some years back at night just getting some shots out back, one was of a tree in the back yard. There was a huge 4 ft circlular ring and faces in it. I saved the photo,.. then in 2005 my son passed,.. an being a mom you have to hold things together. You are expected to amke it all better. Well finding my time,.. I would sit out back and tears would fall and in my mind I would talk and then I heard things (guess in a type of mediation while looking at the trees and sky) Was being told we are like them,.. Listen…”Look at the leaf closely” I heard,.. the birth,.. it’s attached, is how it feeds and grows, the veins, the shape the changeing over time,..weathering the storms and then season ends. It was as if the tree was communicating with me. I know that sounds nuts.. but once I was stairing at a pine tree in the cememtry. I didn’t see a tree but a swirling group of dark colors of green blue and maroon,.. Was as if I was being allowed to really SEE it. “A different freguency” I heard. “Spirit Energys Eternal” SEE .. When you really get down to it,… it was a perfect discription of our lives,.. That of the leaf. I said thanks for shading our home, and letting us have a swing from the branch,.. and cleaning the air for my kids. It is a living thing… Everything is connected in one way or another. Some just choose not to see it like that yet because they are not ready or willing to understand.
    Thanks, from a mom

  30. Gaster Kiyingi Says...

    On October 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

    It is time the took President Museveni of Uganda to court for the proposed degazettment of Mabira Forest

  31. ChrisV Says...

    On September 14, 2012 at 6:46 am

    A strange readership of a science story. So many think that simply “believing” something makes it so. Others see “spirits”. In so many ways, so many haven’t left the Dark Ages. We are not doing a good job teaching science in our schools.

  32. Leelananda Jayasuriya Says...

    On December 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    How do trees talk :

    Recently myself with two others visited a distant place and on our way back, the friend who drive the car said he feel bit sleepy, and he told two of us to rest about half an hour until he get a nap in his driver seat. We said OK and I got down from the car, moved bit away from where we parked, while other two were in the car. In this area trees were grown on two sides of the road and shelter was available under trees.

    There I explained the tress that they also can talk with people and told the trees to use their ability to talk with me, I shall bring it to awareness of people that trees can talk with people. I told, now the human race have realized the value of nature and trees, and continued talking to trees assuming they can understand it.

    I didn’t get any response from trees, and I was enjoying the breeze and resting under trees. After some time I heard someone telling to me ” May be others are about to go, They will talk to you now.”

    So I went back towards our car and one of my friends now telling me, ” It is good that you came back, we were about to call you to continue our journey.”

    I asked them did you then called me. They said no. But they said they intended to call me. There was nobody at the vicinity also.The trees have talked with me.

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