Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
32 ratings

Tuesday - January 12, 2010

From: Pentwater, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Does music affect sunflower growth from Pentwater MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Does music affect sunflower growth?

ANSWER:

This sounds like a Science Fair project. Because Mr. Smarty Plants has in its files an excellent previous answer, we are going to give that answer to you. 

"Mr. Smarty Plants doesn't know if music affects the growth of sunflower plants or any other plants for that matter.  This, however, has been a very popular topic for science fairs.  The problem is that for a science fair project you aren't going to be able to run an experiment that can definitively tell you "yes" or "no". There are too many variables that can interfere.  The popular Discovery Channel TV show, Mythbusters, ran their own experiment to test this and concluded that it is "plausible" that talking helps plants grow.  They also determined that classical music and heavy metal music  made the plants grow better than the control plants that received neither talk nor music. However, David R. Hershey, a botanist and biology education specialist, points out the many errors on the Mythbuster's Experiment on Talking and Music Effects on Plant Growth and demonstrated the pitfalls of conducting a necessarily simple experiment on a complex question.  These pitfalls also await students who are likely have a lot fewer resources to do experiments than Mythbusters did. 

If you have done some searching on the internet, you have probably found references to the The Sound of Music and Plants by Dorothy Retallack.  She wrote that her experiments with plants and music showed that plants respond to different kinds of music—classical music has positive effects and rock music has negative effects (not the same results that the Mythbusters found!).  However, at least one scientist (Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University) questions the science of her experiment and cites this book as a prime example of 'bad science' in her article, The Myth of Absolute Science ("If it's published, it must be true").

So, there is some flawed or pseudoscience out there indicating that music affects the growth of plants.  Is there any real science? There is some indication that sound waves (music is comprised of sound waves) can have an effect on plants—Frank Telewski in his article A Unified Hypothesis of Mechanoperception in Plants, pp. 1468-1469 [American Journal of Botany 93(10):1466-1476. 2006] gives a brief summary of published researchon the effects of sound on plants.  There is another article by Katherine Creath and Gary E. Schwartz,  Measuring Effects of Music, Noise, and Healing Energy Using a Seed Germination Bioassay,  [Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10 (1):113-122.  2004] that reported music increased seed germination in two plants.  David R. Hershey in [Plant-education] Re: effect of noise pollution on metabolism of plants points out that the authors and experimenters for this article aren't botanists.

Finally, here is a critique on Science Projects on Music and Sound by Professor Ross E. Koning, a botanist, from Eastern Connecticut State University on the Plant Physiology Information Website."

If this question was to help you with a Science Fair project, we suggest that you try another subject with which you can more easily demonstrate results.

 

More General Botany Questions

North American plant that inhibits mold and mildew growth
October 06, 2008 - Hi! There, I just wanted to know is there a north American plant that inhibits or eradicates mold and mildew growth, in the home. Also do they make a CFL (the new energy efficient spiral) type light b...
view the full question and answer

Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
February 27, 2006 - Why do sunflowers turn towards the sun?
view the full question and answer

Leaf motion in still air in ON
June 25, 2012 - What causes a tree or plant to dance when the other plants around it are still and no wind???
view the full question and answer

Books on Lilies
August 27, 2006 - Dear Sir, I am looking for a book covering the Lily Family as a whole, i.e., it should preferably also discuss other Genera than Lilium only. I am especially interested in Lily members occurring in t...
view the full question and answer

Question about male muscadine plants
June 01, 2012 - I have 9 muscadine plants, 3 females and 6 perfect flowered growing in my yard. A plant started growing under my porch lst year and it grew through the spaces between the boards. It grew nicely. It fl...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.