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WHAT A PLANT KNOWS

A Field Guide to the Senses

by Daniel Chamovitz

 

What a Plant Knows is lively, eloquent, scientifically accurate, and easy to read. I commend this

engaging text to all who wonder about life on earth and seek a compelling introduction to the lives of

plants revealed as through centuries of careful scientific experimentation.”

—Stephen D. Hopper, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

 

 “Through extensive research and scientific models, Chamovitz explains in accessible language how plants

have somewhat human-like sensory responses to stimuli . . . By comparing human senses to the abilities

of plants to adapt to their surroundings, the author provides a fascinating and logical explanation of how

plants survive despite the inability to move from one site to another. Backed by new research on

plant biology, this is an intriguing look at a plant’s consciousness.”

Kirkus Reviews

 

Plants: they are all around us, and we rely on their products every day, in countless ways. But how much are they aware of themselves? How does a Venus flytrap know when to snap shut around its prey? How do chrysanthemums know to bloom right before Mother’s Day? If a tree is being attacked by a predator, can it warn its fellow trees? And do plants really care what music you make them listen to?

The renowned biologist Daniel Chamovitz—director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University—explores the fascinating world of plants in his delightful What a Plant Knows. Illuminating the science and the romance of plant biology, Chamovitz demonstrates how plants are acutely aware of the world around them and shows how humans share biology not only with chimps and dogs but also with begonias and sequoias.

Among other findings, Chamovitz reveals that:

  • Plants, despite popular opinion about their musical preferences, are deaf, and contain some of the same genes known to cause deafness in humans.
  • Plants can smell if their fruit is ripe or their neighbor is being eaten by a ravenous bug. Some plants prefer certain scents, favoring eau de tomato over eau de wheat.
  • Plants can distinguish different touches, including differentiating between hot and cold touches.
  • Plants don’t like to be touched much, and shaking a plant can lead to growth arrest.
  • Plants see when you come near them, and they know whether you’re wearing a red or blue shirt. The genes that help a plant determine whether it’s in the light or the dark are also found in human DNA.
  • Plants know up from down. Humans and plants respond to gravity in similar ways, as experiments with plants on the International Space Station have proven.
  • Plants retain information about past events and can recall this information at a later period. Tobacco plants know the color of the last light they saw. Willow trees know if their neighbors have been attacked by caterpillars. Cherry trees remember the preceding winter.

Engaging and wonderfully informative, Chamovitz’s WHAT A PLANT KNOWS will make you look at the plants around you with new appreciation and understanding.

 

What a Plant Knows, by Daniel Chamovitz, is published in hardcover by Scientific American /

Farrar, Straus and Giroux on June 5, 2012 (ISBN: 978-0-374-28873-0; $23.00). For interview requests

or more information, please contact Laurel Cook, Publicity Manager, at 212.206.5324 or laurel.cook.contractor@fsgbooks.com.

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Danny Chamovitz,
May 8, 2012, 1:14 PM
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Danny Chamovitz,
May 8, 2012, 1:12 PM
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Danny Chamovitz,
May 8, 2012, 1:18 PM
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