The Context

I am developing a tree, called a Wailing Willow, that in times of stress and famine would become predatory. A Wailing Willow can lure in its prey by mimicking the sounds of animals and humans in distress.
Relevant information on the Wailing Willow.

  • A Wailing Willow can mimic human speech patterns.
  • A Wailing Willow can sense sound vibrations from 400 feet away.

The Question

How could a plant convincingly mimic the sounds of animals and humans?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Is this thing actually a tree? Hearing implies senses that require a processor like a brain to make sense of, something that plants don't and might not ever have as far as we're aware due to the metabolic needs of a brain that plant life would not be able to feasibly support $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Lemming It is a tree, I based its ability to hear off of an article that posited that plants can respond to sounds.Can Plants Hear? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 15:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Kurtalmakthekoboldkiaser there's a vast gulf between "plants can respond in certain ways to some sounds" and "A Wailing Willow can hear as well as a human can". $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ How could an animal or human mimic the sounds of animals or humans? Your plant will need some new structures and organs plants don't currently have, would have thought that was obvious. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:45

2 Answers 2


Outsource the recorder

The problem I see with a tree mimicking sounds is that plants don't have the same fast nervous system as animals, so they probably can't think and adapt fast enough to imitate sounds that lure in their prey. (And the prey will adapt fast and learn not to fall for a unchanging trap)

So why don't you utilize animals brains to speed up your trees? Let them have a symbiotic relationship with some small insects or so. Those could provide the programming part of your sound recorder. If you don't want the little inhabitants of the WW to emit the sounds themselves, they could modify the tree structure for that.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why no thave birds that nest on the trees provide he sound. Mocking birds that imitate the sounds of other creatures. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Nice idea, needs expanding though, what do the birds get out of this? A symbiosis won't develop without some benefit to both partners. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore the bird could get to eat too, the bird can lure the plant can kill neither is successful by itself. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 0:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding Birds could work as well, maybe even easier because you only need one of them to imitate voices. But birds are more mobile and not tied to one tree, that's why I thought that an insect colony which relies on a specific tree to survive (becomes inseparable from it) might be more in line with the question of the OP. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 10:07

It is a trait from a vestigial plant structure

Say that all WW (Wailing Willows) make a specific sound to attract prey. Each will have an individual sound, as its voice.

They do it by opening and closing structures near the top and the wind makes the rest. Why do they sound like animals or certain humans? Because only those who made sounds similar to prey survived and shed enough seeds.

Those who sound like prey all sound similar, but never quite the same. If lets say 4 WW are making dog sounds, you would hear distinct barks. Similar barks but not identical.

Oh, to be clear, the plants dont have to know that they are sounding like prey. They just happen to open their structures in a certain way. And the ones who make the right sounds survive.

How they consume the prey I leave to you.


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