What a Plant Knows: a Field Guide for the Senses – Daniel Chamovitz, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2012.
Reviewed by Debra Knapke
I am teaching a new course – for me – at Columbus State Community College. Its official title is Plant Sciences, but I have told my students that it is 15 weeks of: how do plants survive while rooted in one place and why do they die? As I was collecting material for the course, I found Daniel Chamovitz’s book: What a Plant Knows, and began a delightful journey into plant physiology from a different point-of-view.
Chamovitz draws parallels between plant and human senses which is emphasized by the names of the chapters: What a Plant Sees, What a Plant Smells, What a Plant Feels, How a Plant Knows Where It Is, and so forth. He states that he is not saying that plants experience the world as humans do; plants are not “just like us”. But, by using a framework of the animal senses we are challenged to think of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and proprioception -where we are in space- in a different way. A way that may allow us to understand ourselves … in a different way.
I had a lot of “oh, wow” moments as my understanding of plants and their processes shifted with the author’s premise. It is a slim volume, but it took me time to read the text and follow up with the chapter notes. The references are varied and numerous and I plan to look up quite a few.
This book may not be everyone’s idea of a good read, but I found it fascinating. Hope you will give it a try.