If We Could Talk to the Animals

and the houseplants, just imagine it – chatting with a dracaena deremensis in dracaena deremensisese.  Ok, maybe that’s going a bit far but there is some compelling new research that supports becoming more friendly with the animals and the plants.

flickr.com/photos/royalty-free-images/139142408

While the myth of talking to plants and animals has always existed, a study from Newcastle University in England looked at the relationship between dairy cows and their farmers. The findings? Probably something that caring farmers have always known but the data proved out that farmers giving personal attention and a name to their dairy cows produce an average of 80 gallons more milk each year than those numbering their cows in a factory setting. The scientists believe that placing more emphasis on the individual animals increased the comfort of the dairy cows and removed fear resulting in increased production. In other words, animals raised humanely are not only happier, but they are rewarding their owners with a higher output.

Similarly, there are also those who advocate the idea of conversing with plants. In a 1986 interview, England’s Prince Charles discussed his gardening habits, saying “I just come and talk to the plants, really. Very important to talk to them; they respond.” And while I’m sure there are some who would act exclusively upon the Prince’s advice, it’s compelling to know that there is also evidence that may support his claim.

While there hasn’t been a lot of research on this topic, Rich Marini, head of Penn State’s horticulture department suggests that because a plant’s ability to respond and react to changes in the environment is essential for survival, plants react quickly to a variety of environmental factors including sound. Explains Marini, “Wind or vibration will induce changes in plant growth. Since sound is essentially vibration, my guess is that vibration is causing a response.”

There is other research supporting Marini’s hypothesis. In 2007, a group of scientists from South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology found that two genes (rbcS and Ald) which are involved in a plant’s response to light are stimulated by music played at 70 decibels.  Apparently 70 decibels corresponds to the output of a normal conversation.

Through Google and other sources, I’ve uncovered a modicum of other research tidbits that support the notion of being kind to and having conversations with plants. To me, none of it is as convincing as the dairy cow study but at this point, I feel like I can trust my hunch regarding smaller farms and caring farmers. And if reaching outward with love and kindness and music and conversation is good for people and for our animals, then why not extend the actions to the plant world? In a worse case scenario, they wouldn’t respond and we’d have put the good vibrations out there anyway. Clearly someone’s been whispering to this batch of Arizona sweet onions.

AZ Sweet Onions from Desert Roots Farm

Serves 4
Ingredients:
  • 4 AZ Sweet Onions thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup half and  half
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 oz. grated gruyere
  • chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare and partially bake a crust to fit a 9 inch pan. Saute onions in oil and butter over low heat until golden. Beat together the eggs, half and half, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the onions and half of the grated cheese. Pour into the crust and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

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88 Comments

  1. I have seen the research on plants, but had not heard about the research on being kind to cows! It only makes sense. Companies that treat their employees humanely tend to have more productive workers, too. Thanks so much for sharing this (and the yummy-looking onion pie recipe, too)!

    Reply
  2. Tammy ~

    You might be interested in the book Hidden Messages in Water. Fascinating studies into the innate intelligent of water (both standing alone and in plants, animals, and us!)

    Water and rice in identical jars responded differently to soothing sounds vs. jarring sounds.

    Jarring sounds –> moldy rice
    Soothing sounds –> saki

    http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Messages-Water-Masaru-Emoto/dp/1582701148

    Reply
  3. I have to say, while I can get my head around the idea of talking to animals being beneficial (actually, that seems like commonsense, in the caring = comfort way), I don’t know if I can really accept the same with plants! It’s an interesting thought, though, and one to remember if I ever live somewhere with a garden!

    Reply
  4. The rice experiment Nancy mentions is a great exercise for children.
    Very interesting post Tammy.

    Reply
  5. I loved this: I’m off to liven up today’s staff meeting with a bit of bovine gossip now. I have a deep rooted hippie-chick belief that you reap what you sow, and this is grist to my mill.

    Although I will add that whenever I start talking to cows they generally run away.

    I’m probably one of those people that arrives at a cow party and they say. “Oh, no, SHE’s here, quick, look the other way, you’ll be stuck with her all night..”

    Reply
  6. Sally Mom

     /  September 5, 2010

    My Mother had a beautiful relationship with her plants and so did Dad. They were successful gardners. Mother spoke to and pet her plants and they seemed to respond in thier growth. I have always enjoyed a close relationship with plants and animals and knowing that the same herbal medicines we use as humans are also good for most animals. Hummm, do you think God had that planned before we humans caught on?

    Reply
  7. There certainly seems to be a universal energy at work!

    Reply
  8. Tammy, it’s time. Glad we finally connected. I love this subject and subscribe wholeheartedly to chatting prolifically to plants and animals. They do respond. Even telepathically.

    Reply
  9. I certainly believe that talking and offering a stress free environment will foster a more responsive animal. It makes perfect sense.
    Plants are living things, so I guess it should work with them as well.
    Great recipe. Yum.

    Reply
  10. Huh, I never knew all this – great to know!

    Reply
  11. It all makes perfect sense and I truly believe we are all interconnected.

    I personally find it easier to interact with animals, and know they have their own personalities and do respond to people and circumstances. (I hate it when people call farm animals dumb. They are just like people, really, in that some are smarter than others.)

    I’ve also known people who have an innate ability with plants and they really do respond!

    Great post!

    Reply
  12. I don’t talk to my plants, but I do talk to my dog all the time, even though she’s gone deaf and can’t hear me anymore.

    Reply
  13. Tammy – another great post. While I talk to my cat, Caitlin Marie, all the time, I blithely ignore my few houseplants – I’ll be kinder to them.

    Vis-a-vis farm animals, Michael Pollan’s standout book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” has a really good section about a farmer in Virginia who uses innovative techniques in terms of pasture rotation – but who also treats his animals with respect. He gets really impressive results. I think this is just another reason why the localvorism movement is important – Farmer Nick from whom I buy eggs and pork and chicken treats his animals with respect. And the food is great. Thanks! and Happy Labor Day.

    Reply
  14. I talk to plants so n one will know I’m really talking to myself.

    Reply
  15. Lisa H

     /  September 6, 2010

    Tammy, this is excellent timing, as I have filled my home with extra plants per your wonderful post suggestion (Agrigirl’s Blog of Practical Houseplants). Now, I’m faced with trying to keep them not only alive, but also looking beautiful. Heck, if talking to my plants keeps them healthy, I’m all for it!

    The onion dish sounds absolutely wonderful. I will certainly give it a try!

    Reply
    • Or try what Camille suggests and put certain ones closer to the speakers and see what happens. Also Lisa, Nancy’s comment about rice and water might make a great experiment for your 4-H group.

      Reply
      • Lisa H

         /  September 6, 2010

        Both recommendations sound great! Yes, the rice experiment would be perfect for our 4-H group.

        Reply
  16. Mmmm, you’ve reminded me of a tasty onion and rice casserole that my mom used to make every year during Walla Walla Sweet season.

    Now you have me wondering if the reason some of my windowboxes do so much better than others has to do with proximity to the speakers. Stranger things have happened….

    Reply
  17. I talk to my cats and plants! Of course, my cats respond in a visible way, but I’m sure my plants like it too… ;-P

    A lovely pie!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  18. I firmly believe all this. My own mother would always say you had to talk to the plants, and she had a very green thumb. I have not been so lucky, but mostly since I have had small children and haven’t given as much love to my plants. However I also believe that not just growth, but flowering is a delicate process for a plant. Before I conceived my first child I really did care for my plants well. And wouldn’t you know with the harmony in my life and my impending fertility, a couple of orchids and all my violets all bloomed in November right at the same time I ‘bloomed’. LOL!
    I also believe the info about the cows. From my own experience breastfeeding, being under duress is no way to have a healthy milk supply. Your writing style is lovely, you have beautifully conveyed this message.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words Christa. I’m glad this has hit a chord with you and I understand what you are saying about priorities. We have to roll with them.

      Reply
  19. What a great post! I had no idea about the cows and farmers. Definitely interesting.
    Haven’t ever talked to my plants but I always talk to my animals. I live by myself so I need someone to talk to 🙂

    Reply
  20. wow what a neat thought about how we’re all connected, and how important positive living is.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Love this great common sense look at agriculture – I am sure that someone will think its progressive except that its been done that way for hundreds of years.

    Makes me wonder about California’s Happy Cows – they were looking to pass a law that they could not photograph New Zealand cows and identify them as Californian, I wonder which ones got chatted up?

    Reply
  22. iniyaal

     /  September 7, 2010

    True.. animals do understand and respond when we talk to them. There is family of dogs living close to my house… one of them had a leg injury and was slowly recovering. That was the time I found that sitting close to him and talking to him in a soothing voice made him cheerful. There were days when he was howling in pain and would always sleep. But as we started talking to him and soothing him, he slowly started looking active and could resume walking quickly.

    Reply
    • Interesting that you’ve been able to see this directly. I only have two naughty terriers and a cat and all seem to respond very favorably to voice.

      Reply
  23. I’m guessing that talking to plants and animals is good for the human, too!

    Thanks for a well-researched, informative and delightful post.

    Reply
  24. makes beautiful sense to me
    everything is made up of some form of vibration; the plants and animals are responding to the feeling–love, care–infused in our communication.

    mmmmm….love sweet onion pie

    Nancy Hatch’s suggested book The Hidden Messages in Water is a fascinating read.

    Reply
    • Thanks for confirming that. My bedside stand is heavy with reading at the moment but I’m going to put it on my lists. Maybe for a Christmas gift.

      Reply
  25. Beautiful post, thank you Tammy! So fitting for Agrigirl 🙂 It brings Findhorn immediately to mind. I remember my parents talking about their communication with plants especially, decades ago. So much good going on around the world 🙂

    Reply
  26. So, you’re saying that dairy cows raised in these big, impersonal industrial facilities aren’t as productive as happy cows that are relaxed and well treated? Why, that’s crazy talk! 😉

    I’ve never even heard of onion pie. It sounds delicious, and I’ll bet it makes the house smell incredible!

    — Todd

    Reply
  27. What another interesting post, Tammy. The farmers around here in this village have a special name for every cow like Belle, Sultane, Bijou… and I am quite sure they talk to them too. As for the plants, I do believe in talking to them too. Did you ever hear this sentence : ” You have to talk meanly to your cactus ” ? Plants also seem to react to some particular music, so I heard on a radio broadcast once. The onion pie sounds delicious 🙂

    Reply
  28. jessiecarty

     /  September 8, 2010

    every time I hear about research involving talking to plants, I think of my cousin who did that for her science fair project one year (note she actually squashed the ones she “didn’t” talk to) but I think my pets like me to talk to them or am I just antropomorphising? (can’t spell that!)

    Reply
  29. Interesting post. A little bit of positive energy never hurt anyone…or plant. I’ve never heard of onion pie, but it sounds good!

    Reply
  30. Anyone who has ever had a pet will swear by this research. I know I do. I also believe the plant thing. I talk to mine and they grow. If I neglect one it suffers. I give them names and everything. I’m THAT nutty.

    Reply
  31. My plants always do better when I remember to talk to them. Even if I can’t explain it scientifically, I know it’s true! At the very least I figure I breath out CO2 while I’m talking to them, and they can use that 🙂

    Reply
    • CO2 is one explanation for why they do better and while we do breath it out and they do use it, apparently it is a very small amount. This vibration idea is apparently a much stronger argument.

      Reply
  32. I may be crazy, but I talk to our yard critters all the time! And, yes, some even have names! I also admit I talk tomy plants at times, too. I’ve often wondered about how little we really know about the whole of plants.

    Reply
    • Certainly doesn’t sound like you’re crazy. It sounds as though you’ve been wondering about and have probably known about things that science is just uncovering.

      Reply
  33. Ozarkhomesteader

     /  September 10, 2010

    Mmmm. The onion pie sounds delicious.

    I can’t imagine not talking to the animals around me. They all respond. As for the plants, does it count if I talk to the cats while I garden?

    Reply
  34. great post, I totally agree caring and nuturing any plantor animal is sure to help a beautiful outcome, my mom always talks to her plants and she has a amazing garden..
    sweetlife

    Reply
  35. Call me a sucker, but I buy the plant thing :^). I hadn’t fully embraced it until I had my own experience.
    There is a book, you may be interested in 🙂

    I also recall a program I saw on public tv…It was how one could actually hear the life — the “blood” running through the “veins” of gourds (pumpkins, specifically). It just struck me that there is real life running through those plant roots! Just a weird lightbulb moment, I guess.

    Reply
  36. Since our onions barely grow past golf-ball size…OK, they never hit tennis-ball size, I now realize the Truth. We haven’t developed an Intimate Relationship. Next year I shall whisper to them. And they shall, I am sure, grow into basketballs. LOL! Just kidding, Tammy. I love your blog and just realized it’s not yet on my blogroll. Adding right now.

    Reply
  37. Very interesting research! Recipe sounds great – I love sweet onions.

    Reply
  38. I even talk to my car and appliances if they need encouraging. Everything is energy and it all responds to kindness.
    Great thought provoking post.

    Reply
  39. It is not only about the quantity of output from happy animals, it is also about the quality. I recently watched a program on Discovery Channel about a goat farm in New Zealand. The farmers there claimed that the happiness and comfort of their goats really reflects in the quality of the goat cheese they produced. Even something as simple as the goats not having enough warmth in their shelters can reflect in the taste of the cheese!

    All this makes one wonder how bad must be the quality of animal-based food derived from factory farms with tortured animals!

    Reply
  40. I’m not surprised at all with these findings. Everything in the universe responds to love in one form or another. I haven’t been talking to my plant, though (yes, just one). I guess I’d better start. 😉

    Reply
  41. So interesting.

    Well, I talk to flowers and they award me by flowering nicely in our garden. Also I talk with dogs when they are barking me. When passing them, they are barking me in a different way than the first time and obviously they are aswerering to my praising talk. That is not all. I also talk to my car. Do I hear somebody laughing? I have been driving since 1973 and always talked to my car. What has happened? Never my car has caused problems to me. Believe or not.

    Happy weekend.

    Reply
  42. This research doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, too many humans have removed themselves from the “natural’ world to realize that we are just as much a part of it as the plants and animals and that kind, nurturing human interaction with these entities is, well, natural.

    Reply
  1. Hidden Messages in Water « Spirit Lights The Way

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