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Desert Diary


There are at least two approaches to plants. Some people believe that tender, loving care, including talking gently to the plants one on one, makes for healthy plants. Others, though, think that, short of causing injury, nothing a person does will affect a plant with a sufficient supply of plant necessities. Now, a controversy has broken out among ecologists. Not about whether talking to a plant makes for a happy plant, but whether handling a plant affects it for better or worse or not at all.

In one reported field experiment, some plants were handled briefly and others, the controls, were not. Handled plants of one species showed greater insect damage than those of the same species that were not handled. Two other species appeared to benefit, and three species showed no differences. Attempts to replicate the findings met with mixed results: some experiments found differences, others none. Big deal? Certainly! The question becomes, are the results of an experiment due to the thing you're investigating—or because you couldn't keep your hands to yourself?
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, National Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.