Because of the 2020 pandemic, a new generation of plant lovers emerged. And since practically the whole world went on lockdown, many were inspired by the idea that they should plant fruits and vegetables in their gardens as a hobby. It’s fulfilling, for sure — to help Mother Earth and she helps you back by giving you produce. No problem with that! However, plants may actually have “feelings.” The commonly-planted produce — tomato — is quite the chatterbox. And apparently, tomato plants scream when they’re in distress! It’s — umm — a massacre.

Scientists Learned That Plants Scream When Distressed

Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that tomato plants “scream” when they’re stressed out. This is said to happen when they don’t receive adequate amounts of water — or when their stems are cut. However, the plant’s screams cannot be heard by the human ear — as these veggies only emit high-frequency sounds. Some insects, on the other hand, can possibly hear the plant’s noises.

What Tomatoes Sound Like

In case you’re tempted to listen to your tomato plants’ cries, a simple microphone most likely won’t do the trick. Not only are the sounds too high-pitched to be heard, but you most probably also need special equipment for that. Lilach Hadany — the head author of the study (and an Evolutionary Biologist and Theoretician) — told the Business Insider that “You need specific equipment like ultrasonic microphones to record the sounds.”

As for the sound that tomato plants emit, according to scientists, the noises were “very short ultrasonic clicks.” And in a Live Science article, they described it as “pops” that “sound like someone [is] furiously tap dancing across a field of bubble wrap.”

Why Tomato Plants Scream

Experts are not sure if tomato plants use their ability to produce sounds to communicate with insects — though it could be possible. According to Lilach Hadany, “Even in a quiet field, there are actually sounds that we don’t hear, and those sounds carry information. There are animals that can hear these sounds, so there is the possibility that a lot of acoustic interaction is occurring,” Lilach Hadany added, “Plants interact with insects and other animals all the time, and many of these organisms use sound for communication, so it would be very suboptimal for plants to not use sound at all.”

Plants are also “sessile” living things — or, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this means something that’s “permanently attached or established” and “not free to move about.” Therefore, even if a predator is after a plant, it can’t run from the threat. That’s why plant biologist Anne Visscher (of Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom) hypothesized that plants shriek to “warn” their fellow plants that there’s a threat, or they vocalize in order to deliver a “message” to other animals (that could hear them) — but even Anne Visscher believes that it’s too early to speculate; this is based on her interview with Adam Vaughan for New Scientist.

Nature’s Other Talkative Plants

Tomatoes were the preferred plants that the scientists grew in the greenhouse (that they conducted their experiment in) because tomatoes are easy to grow. But Lilach Hadany and her team also recorded other plants’ sounds. So far, according to the researcher, “We found that many plants — corn, wheat, grape, and cactus plants, for example — emit sounds when they are stressed.”


It’s far too early to tell why tomato plants scream when distressed. But Tel Aviv University said in their report that “It’s possible that other organisms could have evolved to hear and respond to these sounds,” they added, “For example, a moth that intends to lay eggs on a plant or an animal that intends to eat a plant could use the sounds to help guide their decision.”

Therefore, you need not worry about the plants that much — as none of the professors mentioned that tomato plants (and the other fruits/vegetables that were researched) “cry,” or that they’re in pain the same way some mammals like humans would be. Furthermore, the noise that they emit sounds similar to your joints being popped! — but on an ultrasonic level!


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