Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
33 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

Fragrant Texas wildflowers
April 10, 2013 - Hello! I am researching native Texas wildflowers and I am looking specifically for flowers with a pleasing aroma. Is there anyone who has made a list that includes how the flowers smell? Do you kno...
view the full question and answer

Will a Venus flytrap bite?
December 01, 2008 - Will a venus flytrap bite a person? Taylor
view the full question and answer

Is it safe to eat vegetables grown in the same bed as foxgloves?
August 12, 2012 - I have foxglove in my flower beds and have planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and cantaloupe in the flower bed and now I am concerned about the shared root system. Also, my tomatoes are touching the...
view the full question and answer

Flower color in shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia)
February 25, 2010 - Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon meadia) come in the colors white, lavender and purple in the eastern U.S. Is this just genetic variability or does soil chemistry affect the flower color?
view the full question and answer

Strange form of Dasylirion sp. (sotol)
December 27, 2008 - Mr. Smarty: I have a client with a huge (2 ft. diameter trunk), multi-headed dasylirion. On one or more of the heads, the leaves arch inward instead of outward. Someone said this is because of an inju...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.