Plant Communication Hack Chat

"Hoom, hum -- do not be hasty..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Lex Kravitz will host the first Hack Chat of 2021 on Wednesday, January 13 at noon Pacific Time.

Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter!

Join Hack ChatAs far as conversation goes, plants are usually a pretty poor choice of partners. Sure, we've all heard that talking to you houseplants is supposed to be good for them, but expecting them to talk back in any meaningful way is likely to end in disappointment.

Or is it? For as simple and inanimate as plants appear to be, they actually have a rich set of behaviors. Plants can react to stimuli, moving toward attractants like light and nutrients and away from repellents. Some trees can secrete substances to prevent competitors crowding around them, by preventing their seedlings from ever even taking root. And we've known for a long time that plants can communicate with each other, through chemical signaling.

Plants are clearly capable of much more than just sitting there, but is there more to the story? Neuroscientist Lex Kravitz thinks so, which is why he has been wiring up his houseplants to sensitive amplifiers and looking for electrical signals. While the bulk of what we know about plant communications is centered on the chemical signals they send, it could be that there's an electrical component to their behaviors too. Join us as Lex stops by the Hack Chat to talk about his plant communication experiments, and to see if it may someday be possible to listen in of what your plants are saying about you.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney01/13/2021 at 21:03 0 comments

    You bet. And next week, @scubabear will be here for the Movie Magic Hack Chat:

    martin.timms1:00 PM
    Thanks all.


    Movie Magic Hack Chat

    Alan McFarland will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, January 20 at noon Pacific Time. Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter! If they were magically transported ahead in time, the moviegoers of the past would likely not know what to make of our modern CGI-driven epics, with physically impossible feats performed in landscapes that never existed.

    Read this on Hackaday

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney01/13/2021 at 21:02 0 comments

    OK, let's get started. Greetings all, and welcome to the first Hack Chat of 2021! I'm Dan and I'll be the mod today as we welcome back Lex Kravitz, whom we've had on a few times but never before to talk about Plant Communications.

    Lex, are you out there yet?

    Lex Kravitz joined the room.12:00 PM

    Arun Kumar joined the room.12:00 PM

    morgan12:00 PM

    Lex Kravitz12:00 PM
    Yes sorry!

    Sophi Kravitz12:01 PM
    haha right on the dot

    David joined the room.12:01 PM

    Great timing, no worries!

    Lex Kravitz12:01 PM
    Thanks :)

    ghockings12:01 PM
    Happy New Year!

    Lazer.Coh3n12:01 PM

    Lex Kravitz12:01 PM
    Happy New Year all. I am a neuroscientist at Washington University in St Louis, studying obesity in rodents. I make a lot of open-source stuff you can see here: Today we’re going to talk about plants, which do not become obese (as far as I know), but they do move and behave, have electrical signaling, and can learn things (depending on your definition of learning).

    David12:02 PM
    Hey Again!

    I dunno, avocados can be pretty fatty...

    Lex Kravitz12:02 PM
    I can tell you a bit about plants and electrical signaling, and maybe we can all talk about plant intelligence, to be clear I'm not an expert in this, I have just played around with some plant experiments at home. But I think it's a cool topic and it's very accessible if anyone is interested in starting to do this stuff on their own

    Lazer.Coh3n12:03 PM


    Lex Kravitz12:03 PM
    A tiny bit of background reading: In 2013 I read an article by Michael Pollan on the intriguing topic of “plant intelligence”, you can find it here: He remarks on the uncontroversial knowledge that plants can sense and respond to many stimuli: “light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants” and also talks about the more controversial questions or whether plants have intelligence or can demonstrate the building blocks of intelligence such as learning and memory.

    Vesna joined the room.12:03 PM

    Lex Kravitz12:03 PM
    So after reading that article I purchased some seeds and grew two of the plants noted in that article (Mimosa Pudia or “sensitive plant” and Codariocalyx motorius or “telegraph plant”). These are special plants that both exhibit rapid movements (you can see them move by eye and capture amazing movement videos with a timelapse camera), and they also have robust electrical signaling. I’ve been recording electrical signals from these plants with cheap amplifiers from Backyard Brains, a company that produces affordable neuroscience equipment for hobbyists and educators ( To get us started I can also share a few videos from backyard brains showing the type of electrical responses these places make. ,

    ringorob joined the room.12:04 PM

    Lex Kravitz12:04 PM
    I put some photos and videos of my experiments up here:

    Lex Kravitz12:04 PM
    I did not record from any avocados unfortunately!

    scubabear12:05 PM
    Back in the 70s for a science fair project I built a galvonometer and attached it to a geranium plant. (I was in 7th grade...) I recall observing that various stimuli affected the readings on the galvo. I haven't yet looked at your links, but are you doing something like that?

    David12:05 PM
    After our chat yesterday, I'm getting really interested in picking up a plant spiker box for my own experiments with electroculture.

    Quick question on the fast movements of the Mimosa spp. -- any idea what the mechanism is for that? I mean, they don't have contractile tissues AFAIK, so is it like a hydraulic change that moves the leaves?

    ben joined the room.12:06 PM

    Vesna12:06 PM

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munocat wrote 01/11/2021 at 06:15 point

interesting, I once saw a documentary on bees and plants that can communicate when the flower has nectar though electric fields.

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