Pallavi's Reviews > What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses

What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz
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Jun 16, 12

Read from June 14 to 16, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I cannot say I simply loved this book. It reminded me too much of a botany textbook, despite the author's best attempts to make it interesting. I understand that the author could not put a lot of the theory in layman's terms, but if even someone like me who is moderately familiar with botany found it dull in parts, then it definitely is not a book for someone with no previous background in botany. That said, it was very informative, extremely well written, and I hope most of the information will be stored in my long-term memory, like that in a flax seedling(!).

It is a relatively short e-book at 129 pages, only 94 of which contain the actual material, the rest being acknowledgements and notes. The book is divided into six parts, based on the 4 main senses (vision, olfaction, auditory, somatosensory), sense of location and memory, that plants may or may not share with humans and animals. Each chapter begins with an interesting fact about the similarities in one of the above mentioned senses between plants and humans. The most famous example quoted several times in the book is obviously the enigmatic Venus Fly-trap that intrigues children and adults alike and every botanist's favorite, Arabidopsis. The chapter on how several people carried out experiments to prove that plants preferred a certain genre of music was informative and hilarious at the same time. It reminded me of a page in a childhood encyclopedia I have, called "The Big Book of Amazing Facts" with the title "Why do some people sing to their plants?" It depicted a large woman in an 'opera singer' sort of stance singing to her plant. I do not remember the conclusion in that chapter, but I think it was something to the effect that it was because people thought you could induce plants to grow faster if you spoke to them or even better, sang to them. Considering that my encyclopedia is from the eighties, it is not a surprise that research has since debunked that myth.

But apart from the fact that plants lack the auditory sense(spoiler alert!), the knowledge that plants possess rudimentary forms of the remaining senses was slightly unnerving to me. I mean, I always knew plants were living beings (duh!), but understanding the extent of their 'life' makes me, a life-long vegetarian, ponder my non-existent options for non-violent means of obtaining food. Maybe one day humans will learn how to make their own food with just air, water and sunshine!

As for the rating for this book, I gave it 3 stars because I only just 'liked it'(as opposed to 'really liked' or found it simply 'amazing'), but in terms of information, this book would be well worth five.

All I know is that I'll never look at Felicis, my bamboo plant that sits on my office desk, the same way again!
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