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

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,041 Ratings  ·  153 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
ebook, 129 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2012)
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Have you ever wondered what plants 'see'? What they 'smell'? What they feel? How come a plant 'knows' when and how to bend towards the light? Does the colour of the light play a role in all this? What about the day and night cycle, do plants have some sort of circadian rhythm? Do plants experience jet lag? How does the plant distinguish between colours? How come a plant can tell that there's a bug on its leaves? If the bug is a dangerous one, how come it 'knows' that and will release chemicals t ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Melindrift rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jim Tucker
Aug 26, 2012 Jim Tucker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 31, 2012 Sobriquet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 10, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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.
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 it is the tip of plants that sense the presence of light. It describes the experiments that determined how ethylene induces ripening, and how the trait evolved as a response to environmental stresses such as drought and as a mechanism to ensure
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
Jun 24, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2015 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviews by others range from 2 to 4. I give 4 Stars because book conveyed information in exactly the way the author intended. The readers giving 2 stars had Bachelor Degrees in Science and thus they thought the book was a bit light in conveying the science behind "What a Plant Knows." But if that science had been included the book would have been too long and too difficult for me. I just wanted to enjoy being amazed at what scientists have discovered and agree upon. I was motivated to read the b ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Vasha7 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a Plant Knows is a very brief survey of research into plant senses and awareness: a bare 120 pages divided into sections on sight, hearing, smell, touch, proprioception, and memory. A fascinating subject, to be sure, but too shallowly and sketchily treated. The author writes at an extremely introductory level, thinking it necessary to explain things like what a cell wall is*; all these explanations, along with abundant comparisons between humans and plants, plus the chatty style of the writ ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Anwaar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my everlasting passion for biology and life sciences, I have always been a bit indifferent to plants, despite studying their biology through different stages of my education .therefore, this was an interesting read. not because It was new; I found myself skimming through often, because I was familiar with lots of the concepts. what was special about the book was the way he presented it , comparing humans with plants on a cellular level. putting both creatures on the same biological scale ...more
Angelo Giardini
Plantas enxergam luz, sentem cheiros, são capazes de notarem e reagirem ao toque, orientam-se pela gravidade e possuem memórias específicas. Tudo isso em um ser sem sistema neurológico ou cérebro e narrado na clássica forma, quase cliché de tão universal em livros de popular science, da apresentação das descobertas em ordem cronológica. O que o livro não realiza, contudo, deixando a reflexão para o leitor, é usar as diferentes maneiras com que uma planta se relaciona com o mundo para questionar, ...more
Kelly O'Dowd
Aug 09, 2013 Kelly O'Dowd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Jul 28, 2012 Alice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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...
Simple explanations on how plants have senses. By revisiting what our senses actually are, versus what we tend to glorify them as, this book argues that plants qualify as being capable of seeing, smelling, etc. Basically, the ability to sense, and react, to different wavelengths qualifies as seeing. An organ dedicated to complex sensing is not necessary. This is how each sense plays out. My favorite, though, is the remembering. Quite a unique thought.

In the end, the author touches on the need to
Oct 05, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: patient-reads, 2015
This is a short, whimsical book about the life of plants. How does a plant perceive the world? There are three levels of consciousness in humans--anoetic, noetic, and autonoetic--associated with the three levels of memory formation processes--procedural, semantic, and episodic, respectively. In this book, Daniel Chamovitz outlines the perceptions of a plant, one sense at a time, in order to give the reader a sense (convenient pun) for what plants know versus what characteristics we attribute to ...more
May 26, 2013 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chamovitz's charming book was just that: charming. I kept running into issues with his topic, which at times bordered on the fantastical instead of the scientific. He sites numerous experiments and published studies about plant behavior, but many of them have been debunked or inconclusive. I don't mean to say you can't have a book that sites experiments that didn't work out, but when the topic is about defending plant behavior and you point to a bunch of studies which were never conclusive, it g ...more
Last Ranger
Dec 20, 2012 Last Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Olga Kovalenko
Nov 21, 2015 Olga Kovalenko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never been a fan of botany and I have a complicated relationship with plants in general. But this books is a page turner.
Being a vegetarian, I was a bit nervous starting it. The book promised to explain how plants are aware of their environment. So, my reflex was to tag a carrot with feelings and imagine it suffer, while being eaten raw.
Thank heavens, I was wrong. The book didn't make me say no to the last bits of real food. Instead, it made me aware of the world of these green things th
Barney Beins
Feb 06, 2016 Barney Beins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining and educational read! Unlike some books that suggest that plants can talk to you, this book provides a great look at how plants adapt to their environments in ways not entirely dissimilar from the way that people sense their environment. The author is very clever in drawing analogies between sensory processes in people and those in plants. Naturally, plants aren't sentient in the same ways as people (except for some politicians), but the activity of plant cells is electro ...more
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
Nov 10, 2015 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite informative if you are a novice or intermediate plant grower. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nov 27, 2014 Andris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm now much more aware of what plants are aware of, and they are aware of much of the environment around, just very differently than animals with brains are. A good biology book not too hard on people who haven't studied biology since high school. I was really amazed by much of the science there, and how it has progressed since my school days.

For example, I didn't know before that plants can feel touch and physical damage (not in the human sense) and communicate that experience to other plants
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
May 31, 2015 eldaldo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I read because I love plants. It is very simple and accessible but approached botany from a microbiology and genetics angle, so it is pretty hard sciencey while still being a pretty easy read. Though maybe I think so because I was a bio major and understand all that stuff already. Basically, if you like plants and science, this book is for you. Anyway, I learned many cool things like how plants have a molecular switch that turns on and off with different frequencies of red light w ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So fast! But very interesting. I thought the epilogue was weak, though. He spends the whole book showing the plants, in their own way, have smell, sight, memory, and the sense of touch. Then he dismisses the idea of plant anthropomorphism because plants don't have a brain. Worse, he states the idea that plants don't suffer or feel as facts, when he means that scientists have not confirmed that plants can not feel or experience. The most he should say (and does say on occasion) is that we have no ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Rama rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Carl Christian
Sep 02, 2014 Carl Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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
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Goodreads Librari...: What a Plant Knows: ISBN 9780374288730 2 25 Feb 15, 2013 10:57AM  
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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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