What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses
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What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  511 ratings  ·  94 reviews
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...more
ebook, 129 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2012)
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Melindrift
Silly rabbit. Plants don’t have a brain or central nervous system – how can they “know” anything? Turns out though, that their cells communicate with electrical currents and contain some of the same neuroreceptors as human cells. Huh? Also, they see. They have photoreceptors on the tips of their shoots that cause the stalks to bend toward light (if you cut off the tip, the rest of the stalk doesn’t bend). And, they smell. Infested trees let off a chemical that bugs don’t like, and trees nearby p...more
Kate Caruso
A light and moderately enjoyable read, and even though it delves into a fair amount of science ranging from biology, to biochemistry and beyond, it still comes up a little thin. I found myself wanting more. I'm realizing that "more" would have been a greater emphasis on how the research on plant senses: smell, touch, hearing, seeing, etc, relates to the everyday care-taking of plants. In short, a more horticultural bent would have been more interesting to me. Michael Pollan's The Biology of Desi...more
Jim Tucker
If you read this book, even the first few chapters, you will never look at any plant the same again. Before you get too far into the book, you may wonder if the author is not setting you up to join him in a plants' rights campaign. But if you read to the end you will be disabused of such a conclusion. In fact, you will find that such anthropomorphizing is not the purpose of the book. It is simply a book to increase the awareness (a word chosen in harmony with the content of the book) of what pla...more
Meg
This book isn't overly complex or chock full of "things never known". It *is* brimming with the fascinating! It is very well written and creative and fun. Bonus: It's also an entertaining book to read aloud to kids who are interested in plants. Mine heard the first chapter and would like to hear more. I thank the scientist author for fresh and creative writing that made us ponder and smile.
Sobriquet Deplume
An engaging read that serves as a great introduction to plant chemical ecology. My only complaint is that I found it to be a little sparse on actual scientific explanation, but I do have a degree in horticulture science. Still, I think this book should be required reading - so few seem to realize that plants are complex organisms that must engage in the types of warfare typically found only in science fiction.
Karen P
I alotted time before spring for this piquing book about how plants, lacking a brain/central nervous system, can sense and process information. My reading just happened to coincide with the special arrival of my niece's baby girl. Maleigha, now 16 days old, was born without a brain (anencephaly), but has a portion of brain stem, which allows her to breathe and have a heartbeat. She is blind and deaf, and will never be able to walk or talk. (Actually I know very little about the condition of anen...more
Jennifer
Really fascinating to ponder what a plant does know - essential reading for anyone who gardens or has house plants or who admires the trees in the park! Sciency but in a very understandable way. Very much recommended.

*So the next time you find yourself on a stroll thru a park, take a second to ask yourself: What does the dandelion in the lawn see? What does the grass smell? Touch the leaves of an oak, knowing that the tree will remember it was touched. But it won't remember you. You, on the othe...more
Last Ranger
What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses
Daniel Chamovitz

Darwin's Garden!

Plants are profoundly different from animals but both share many of the same problems: they both have to survive in a somewhat hostile world, they both have to take in nourishment, expel waste (oxygen) and try to keep from being eaten. This fascinating little book explores the inner life of plants and how they address the Darwinian forces that surround them. The sun provides life giving light for the plant and the pl...more
Gary
A fascinating little book on how plants are able to sense the environment and react in an intelligible, goal-directed manner. Chamovitz is at pains to distinguish legitimate scientific investigations into plant awareness from typical New Age mumbo-jumbo like The Secret Life of Plants,, which unfortunately soured the legitimacy of seriously studying plant sensation. Chamovitz's book provides a lucid introduction to classic and modern experimentation on plant's sensory abilities going back to Darw...more
Charlotte
Thankfully, this book was not "New-Agey" at all. It is research-driven. I love that the facts are as interesting as fiction. It details similarities (more than I realized existed) between plants and humans without falling into the trap of anthropomorphizing plants. The author uses the human senses as an analog to explain plant responses to environmental stimuli. I feel that these connections are useful in that they help us to understand plants better and to understand ourselves better. The curre...more
Maurynne  Maxwell
Elegantly expressed overview of current plant research, comparing plant senses and human senses. Debunks some of the ideas expressed in The Secret Life of Plants, at least as they were popularized in the media, and yet in the end saying plants are aware. Disappointingly short, only 141 pages plus 30 pages of notes, index, and acknowledgements. Highly recommended for people who love to read science. Good discussion of epinegenetics, also. Saw it reviewed in Science News, asked the library to orde...more
John Kaufmann
A fascinating little book. Describes how plants sense things - how they detect and respond to light, touch, smell, sound, and how a plant remembers - with the experiments that led to these conclusions.

It describes Darwin's experiment that determined that the it is the tip of plants that sense the presence of light. It describes the experiments determined how ethylene induces ripening, and how it the trait evolved as a response to environmental stresses such as drought and as a mechanism to ensu...more
Rama
Do plants have memory and consciousness?

The author is a leading researcher in the field of plant sensory communications and he reviews the literature by asking hypothetical questions such as; does a plant has the ability to see, hear, feel, think and react to external stimuli like animals do. He has a unique way of expressing himself, and in the process tries to answer each question so that a reader can understand and appreciate the subject. He describes simple plant experiments that demonstrate...more
Carl Christian
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Carl Christian Glosemeyer Andersen
PHD in philosophy and the history of ideas, UiO, Norway.

What a Plant Knows
~Daniel Chamovitz

An excellent scientific study of Plant Senses.

This review is from: What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses (Kindle Edition)
PhD Daniel Chamovitz's book is a very inspiring introduction to modern plant physiology and phenomenology. The title can easily be misinterpreted as a kind of New Age speculation about plants senses, which...more
Frank
Easy-to-read, interesting pop-science book about plants' sensory and memory apparatus. Makes me more aware of plants' awareness. I enjoyed this book up until the final pages of the epilogue, where Chamovitz feels obligated to reassure people that they are superior to plants.

I also learned about epigenetics from this book, a fascinating mechanism of which I intend to study more.
Hilary
It took some time for this book to win me over, because it is definitely written for those who know little about plants. While I learned rather little that was new to me, I really enjoyed the writing and the scholarship is at a high enough level to convince me to put this on a syllabus for a course that I teach. It's also very short and was great to read on the subway.
Eleni
Very quick read, took about 5-6 hours. The book is written in a style that those without a scentific background, but with a keen mind, will understand and hopefully appreciate. It gives a very good and broad general summary about the sensory life of plants.

At times I felt perhaps that there was a little too much stretching to fit what our human perception of sense are (always comparing to our main senses), but it does strive to give credit to the plant kingdom and the ways that their own unique,...more
Ibrahim Majed
I've take the course on coursera.org
wonderful! I was amazed!
I get more closer to know what plant knows, to feel plants in deep level.
Thanks to Prof.Daniel.

----- Update:
About Plants sensors; Plants can listen, see, smell, remember, feel, and think!
Good step to understand the world and the beauty that surround us!
Robert
You might never look the same way at a plant again. This book is science based so there is no anthropomorphizing.
But plants do have an awareness.
Table of Contents: What a plant sees. What a plant smells. What a plant feels. What a plant hears. How a plant knows where it is. What a plant remembers. the Aware Plant.
Kelly O'Dowd
I'm not even justifying this with another shelf.

This sucked.

I went into this thinking it would be more than fluff. When really, I didn't learn anything I already kinda knew. (well some things were nifty little tidbits).

This didn't warrant a book.

So, basically, substance sucked. Idea was pretty cool.


Sue Burke
A brief and non-technical look at what plants can do. They can see, smell, and remember if you touch them, for example. If this is news to you, this might be the book for you. If you already knew that, this book might be a bit too basic. In any case, the scientific rigor behind this book deserves praise and respect.
Maureen
Fantisic book about the world of plants. Completely describes difficult to understand historical and modern terminology, experiments and refferences in an extremely easy to grasp fashion. There are more to plants then you realize and this text will wake you up to their world and perceptions.
Helen
Have you ever even thought What a plant may feel and how the senses work in nature?! This is surprising guide to this magical world. A true way how to appreciate nature more and to collect new cool knowledge about many plants. Some quite random things to know, but still interesting. :)
Mary
I thoroughly enjoyed this very readable, well-organized book. The author explains concepts and research in an extremely clear fashion suitable for non-scientists while remaining at a level that I as a plant ecologist did not find at all boring. I recommend it enthusiastically!
Tanel
Raamat uurib peatükkide kaupa, millised meeled võiksid taimel olla ning nagu selgub, on paljud neist mingil tasandil ka olemas (ainult kuulmisega on kehvemini).
Alice
It wasn't a bad book - just v short and didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, which as I'm not a biologist was disappointing. A bit dumbed down...
Ashley (For the Love of the Page)
I literally couldn't put it down! Absolutely riveting! Honestly, one of the best books I've read in awhile.
Ashley
2.5 stars: Pretty boring
Jessica
What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz is the first book I’ve ever encountered that seeks to give a plants’ view of the world, and to do so scientifically, with due care taken to cite the appropriate studies. It’s a fascinating examination of the way plants sense the world, one which also takes a look at how humans know what is around us.

The book starts with sight and works its way through to the question of awareness, all the while reexamining the definition for each concept, carefully unpackin...more
Savanna
This will interest you if (like me) you know little about plants in general, and it will entertain you if you don't mind a very casual tone.

The book seems to be well researched and is organized thematically by sense (including memory and proprioception—the ability to distinguish up from down and to be spatially aware of the body in relation to itself—which I hadn't even considered before reading this book). What I found most appealing was how Chamovitz presents research as a historical narrative...more
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Goodreads Librari...: What a Plant Knows: ISBN 9780374288730 2 24 Feb 15, 2013 10:57AM  
  • Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees
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  • Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpel's Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families
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  • The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behaviour
  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History
  • Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers
  • Field Notes on Science and Nature
  • Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
  • The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
  • Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
Daniel Chamovitz is Director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University in Israel. His career has been marked by groundbreaking discoveries in the biology of plants, with his research published in the leading journals. This is his first book.
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“Flying halfway around the world puts our circadian clock out of sync with the day-night signals, a phenomenon we call jet lag. The circadian clock can be reset by light, but this takes a few days. This is also why spending time outside in the light helps us recover from jet lag faster than spending time in a dark hotel room.” 0 likes
“My grandmother didn’t study plant biology or agriculture. She didn’t even finish high school. But she knew that she could get a hard avocado to soften by putting it in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana. She learned this magic from her mother,” 0 likes
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