Back when I was a teenager, summer reading was all about pulp fiction and romantic novels, except for the summer when I read everything Arthur C. Clarke ever published. Now that I use podcasts for pulp novels and nonfiction, I can spend summer on eccentric or unusual new books. What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses is my latest extraordinary discovery.
Author Daniel Chamovitz points out that it has been over three decades(!) since Secret Lives of Plants was published and there has been lots of hard scientific research about plants since then. Chamovitz emphasizes over and over that plants DON’T experience the world as humans do, but they do sense the world in their own ways.
Some tidbits from this provocative book:
Plants are aware of the world around them.
They can “see” in that they differentiate between red, blue, far-red and UV lights (better than we can, incidentally).
They can “smell” in that they are aware of aromas and minute amounts of chemical compounds in the air.
They can “touch” and respond differently to different kinds of touch.
They are aware of the past and can remember past infections and conditions and change their physiology based on those memories.
They can communicate with other plants and warn them of predators.
And my favorite: plants dance…all plants move in a great spiral when they grow and when they adapt to their environment.
This book isn’t a metaphysical exploration of plants. It is a long scientific discussion of specific plant actions and reactions. For people like me who want to know why plants do things…why they thrive and survive sometimes and why they wither and die sometimes, ‘What a Plant Knows’ is a great treasure.