Page last updated at 20:00 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 21:00 UK

Darwin relative helps plants grow

generic tomato plant
Tomatoes seemed to like Sarah Darwin's voice

The voice that best encourages plants to grow taller belongs to a relative of Charles Darwin, according to plant experts in Surrey.

After a month of experiments at its garden in Wisley, the Royal Horticultural Society said Sarah Darwin had the UK's most plant-friendly voice.

The voice of the botanist's great-great granddaughter was one of 10 played to tomato plants through headphones.

Ms Darwin's reading saw her plant grow 1.6cm higher than the control plant.

She read from Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in tests that began in April.

In open auditions people were able to record excerpts from Darwin's work, John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Listen to the voice that encourages tomatoes - talking about Charles Darwin

A variety of voices were selected to play to 10 tomato plants over a month.

The 45-year-old, a botanist at the Natural History Museum, said she was thrilled by the accolade.

"I think it's an honour to have a voice that can make tomatoes grow, and especially fitting because of the number of years I have been studying wild tomatoes from the Galapagos Islands at the Natural History Museum in London.

"I'm not sure if it's my dulcet tones or the text that I read from that made the plant sit up and listen, but either way I think it's great fun and I'm proud of my new title."

The Voice of Wisley experiment formed part of the RHS Grow Your Own campaign, which helps people to experience growing their produce.

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