I once gave a very large Amaryllis bulb from Holland to a friend who placed it on the corner of her desk facing west and the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights. With pedestrians close by, horns blasting from ships on the river, cars below hitting potholes on the Belt Parkway, and the Brooklyn Bridge vibrating above, it was not the quietest setting. But it was the brightest light in her apartment and the best view on her outside world.
The bulb quickly sprouted. On the third day, from morning until evening, not only did she measure six inches of stalk growth, she noticed a constant sound, like shshshshshsh. Home alone and familiar with the whir of her refrigerator, the heater, the noise from her upstairs neighbors, to no avail, she sluethed around from room to toom and faucet to faucet trying to identify the sound. This went on for hours, until she put her ear to the Amaryllis. The source of the mystery: a rapidly growing bulb.
Scientists recognize trees that communicate through chemicals released by roots. There is a relatively young study of auditory impressions from plants, but the researchers have not proven their findings in an acceptable scientific model. Farmers believe they hear their fields of corn growing, and there is folklore around plants responding to the vibrations of music, voices, even thoughts.
It’s just a matter of time before beliefs turn into respectable data, because there definitely exists a traceable phenomenon: the one that caused my friend to place her ear next to the shoot of the Amaryllis. Water hydraulically pumped through roots, stems and leaves is a dynamic that produces sounds according to rate, pressure, the design of a specimen, and the ability to hear. I believe I can see a difference from one day to the next in the size of a fast growing leaf. But to have the ability to detect the quiet choir of my very active apartment orchids would be an ultimate for a plant lover like me. Shshshshshsh