What a plant knows – a field guide to the senses

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Rob Richardson

RG and FJ Richardson, Meredith, Victoria 3333 Australia.

Cite this article as:

Richardson, R. (2012). What a plant knows – a field guide to the senses [Book Review]. Plant Protection Quarterly 27(3), 116.

What a plant knows – a field guide to the senses

by Daniel Chamovitz

Published by Scribe Publications 2012, b/w, paperback, 288 pages, price $18.99, ISBN 9781921844638.

We all take the human and other animal senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, orientation, etc for granted. What about plants, what senses do they have? We all know that sunflowers turn towards the sun; that most plants grow upwards. But consider, billions of years ago we all, animals and plants, had a common ancestor. Does our DNA contain and relics from those times that may still be operating? Do we have anything in common with plants?

In What a plant knows the biologist Daniel Chamovitz explores how plants experience our shared Earth, in terms of sight, smell, touch, hearing, memory and even awareness. In a lively, easy to read style he explains the senses that plants have and how they are used. We normally do not pay much attention to the senses that plants have because they are so different from us, but they do have a complex sensory and regulatory system that allows them to cope with their ever-changing environment.

This is an enjoyable and easy book to read, but most importantly it is not a book that makes bizarre or outrageous claims without supporting evidence (as has been done in the past). Daniel Chamovitz’s interest in plant senses began when as a young post-doctoral fellow at Yale Univeresity in the 1990s he explored how plants use light to regulate their development and the genes involved in differentiating between light and dark, (which he later discovered were present in the human DNA).

Daniel Chamovitz is director of the Manna Centre for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University. He grew up in Pennsylvania, studied at Colombia University before receiving his PhD in genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been a visiting scientist at Yale University and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, and has lectured at universities worldwide.


First published online: September 15, 2012