How does a Venus flytrap know when to snap shut? Can it actually feel an insect's tiny, spindly legs? And how do cherry blossoms know when to bloom? Can they actually remember the weather?
For centuries we have collectively marveled at plant diversity and form—from Charles Darwin's early fascination with stems to Seymour Krelborn's distorted doting in Little Shop of Horrors. But now, in What a Plant Knows, the renowned biologist Daniel Chamovitz presents an intriguing and scrupulous look at how plants themselves experience the world—from the colors they see to the schedules they keep. Highlighting the latest research in genetics and more, he takes us into the inner lives of plants and draws parallels with the human senses to reveal that we have much more in common with sunflowers and oak trees than we may realize. Chamovitz shows how plants know up from down, how they know when a neighbor has been infested by a group of hungry beetles, and whether they appreciate the Led Zeppelin you've been playing for them or if they're more partial to the melodic riffs of Bach. Covering touch, sound, smell, sight, and even memory, Chamovitz encourages us all to consider whether plants might even be aware of their surroundings.
A rare inside look at what life is really like for the grass we walk on, the flowers we sniff, and the trees we climb, What a Plant Knows offers us a greater understanding of science and our place in nature.
An impressive amount of scientific information and research is packed into this slim volume about plants' perception, but whether this title will interest readers rests entirely on their pre-existing interest in "the parallels between plant and human senses." The author, the director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University, devotes a chapter to each specific sense: what a plant sees, smells, feels, and hears, how it knows where it is, and what it remembers. Despite an overwhelming amount of detail about the world as seen from a plant's point of view and lucid descriptions of experiments, the stakes of why we should care if plants self-medicate, listen to music, or know to grow upwards are left unarticulated. In the most engaging section of the book, Chamovitz writes that plant memories are not "semantic or episodic memories... but rather procedural." Fans of botany and nature writing may be absorbed in learning about plant senses for their own sake, but the book is unlikely to appeal to nonbotanists.