Humans and Plants Are Alike: Males Don’t Listen to Females, Scientists Say

Humans and Plants Are Alike: Males Don't Listen to Females, Scientists Say

You call him stubborn, he claims it was just a miscommunication. 

Turns out, the conversations happening in your house, are also happening in the greenhouse. 

“There’s obvious parallels you can draw from stereotypes about humans, and relative listening abilities of males and females,” said Dr. Kailen Mooney, professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Biological Sciences. “But in the case of plants, it actually makes sense to us from an evolutionary perspective.”

Mooney’s lab has spent eight years studying Mule Fat plants, which are part of the sunflower and daisy family, and native to Southern California.

“What we’re interested in was whether or not males and females speak and listen to each other when they are being eaten by insects,” said Mooney.

The plants communicate to each other through chemicals and smells that they produce as part of their immune system.

“What we found is that females are good listeners,” said Mooney. “But males only listen to the volatiles (the smells) emitted by other males. And so, they ignore females.”


Mule Fat plants, scientifically known as Baccharis Salicfolia, are part of the sunflower family and are native to Southern California. The discovery offers insights useful for agriculture production to use fewer insecticides when managing crops.

But let’s be honest, the scientists are just confirming something most of our mothers have said for years! Insert eye roll and dramatic sigh. 

For more information on Mooney’s research, watch the video above and follow @nbcla on social media.


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