Prince Charles has long been mocked for claiming that plants could talk but now he can afford to have the last laugh as researchers say that it is indeed true. In fact, they claim to have caught them whispering on camera — the first time that such a process has been captured.
According to scientists at Britain's Exeter University, a cabbage was “heard'' warning its neighbours of trouble ahead after it had a leaf snipped with scissors. They said they were able to detect the process by modifying a cabbage gene which triggers the production of a gas that is emitted when a plant's surface is cut or pierced.
“By adding the protein luciferase — which makes fireflies glow in the dark — to the DNA the plants' emissions could be monitored on camera. One cabbage plant had a leaf cut off with scissors and started emitting a gas — methyl jasmonate — thereby ‘telling' its neighbours there may be trouble ahead. Two nearby cabbage plants, which had not been touched, received the message they should protect themselves. They did this by producing toxic chemicals on the leaves to fend off predators such as caterpillars,'' the Mail newspaper reported.
The footage will be the highlight of a forthcoming BBC series on plants by Iain Stewart, professor of Geoscience Communication who saw the experiment at Exeter University.
“It's fascinating to realise that there could be a constant chatter going on between different plants, that they can in some way sense chemically what is happening to others, like a hidden language which could be going on all around us. Most people assume that plants lead a rather passive life, but in reality they move and sense and communicate. It's almost like they show a kind of intelligence,'' he said.
Professor Nick Smirnoff, a biochemist who led the experiment, said: “We have managed to show in a visual way that the gas emitted by plants when they have been wounded affects their neighbours.''