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A rose is a rose -- except when it's a stereo speaker

TOKYO -- The therapeutic power of flowers takes on new meaning with a Japanese gadget that turns plants into audio speakers.

Called Ka-on, which means ''flower sound" in Japanese, the machine consists of a doughnut-shaped magnet and coil at the base of a vase that hooks up to a CD player, stereo, or TV.

Place flowers into the vase, turn on Ka-on, and the magnet and coil relay the sound vibrations up the stems. Music emanates from the petals.

Masumi Gotoh, president of Let's Corp., a telecommuncations equipment company in Nagoya, Japan, that developed and manufactures Ka-on, calls it ideal for flower table-arrangements at weddings, reception desks at hospitals, and decoration at restaurants.

Ka-on vases and amplifiers come in various sizes, ranging in price from $46 to $460. There's a version that works with potted plants, and a wireless connection will soon be available for piping music to the Ka-on.

Not only does Ka-on deliver music, it keeps bugs off plants and helps cut flowers last longer, Gotoh claims.

''The plant is happy listening to music," says Gotoh, showing off a rubber plant hooked up to Ka-on in his Tokyo office. ''Gerberas and sunflowers work especially well as speakers."

About 3,000 of $46 Ka-on version, on sale via the Internet since July, have been sold and some 10,000 orders have been received so far.

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