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Good Reads  Botany  Plants & Botany: Biology & Ecology

The Light Eaters The New Science of Plant Intelligence

Popular Science New
By: Zoë Schlanger(Author)
290 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Fourth Estate
The Light Eaters
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  • The Light Eaters ISBN: 9780008445348 Hardback May 2024 In stock
Price: £22.00
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

A narrative investigation into the new science of plant intelligence and sentience, from National Association of Science Writers Award winner and Livingston Award finalist Zoë Schlanger.

Look at the green organism across the room or through the window: the potted plant, or the grass, or a tree. Think how a life spent constantly growing yet rooted in a single spot comes with tremendous challenges. To meet them, plants have come up with some of the most creative methods for surviving of any living thing, us included. Many are so ingenious that they seem nearly impossible.

There is no doubt that plants are important: plants, or their green precursors the blue-green algae and algae themselves, have produced all the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere, allowing animals to evolve. But did you know they can communicate when they are being eaten, allowing nearby plants to bolster their defences. They move and that movement stops when they are anaesthetised, just like animals. They also use electricity for internal communication, just like animals. They can hear the sounds of caterpillars eating, just like animals. Plants can remember the last time they have been visited by a bee and how many times they have been visited, so have a concept of time and can count, just like animals. Plants can not only communicate with each other, they can also communicate with other species of plant and animals, allowing them to manipulate animals to defend or fertilise them. This is unlike most other animals.

So look again at the potted plant, or the grass or the tree and wonder: Are plants intelligent? Perhaps even more fundamental is are they conscious? Is the only real difference between animals and plants that plants are light eaters, animals aren't. The Light Eaters will completely redefine how you think of plants. Packed with the most amazing stories of the life of plants it will open your eyes to the extraordinary green life forms we share the planet with. Of course, like animals, plants can also detect light.

Customer Reviews


Zoë Schlanger is currently a staff reporter at The Atlantic, where she covers climate change. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, Time, Newsweek, The Nation, Quartz, and on NPR among other major outlets, and in the 2022 Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology. A recipient of a 2017 National Association of Science Writers' reporting award, she is often a guest speaker in schools and universities. Zoë graduated with a B.A. from New York University.

Popular Science New
By: Zoë Schlanger(Author)
290 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Media reviews

"A masterpiece of science writing."
– Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

"Mesmerizing, world-expanding, and achingly beautiful."
– Ed Yong, author of An Immense World

"Rich, vital, and full of surprises. Read it!"
– Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky and The Sixth Extinction

"A brilliant must-read. This book shook and changed me."
– David George Haskell, author of Sounds Wild and Broken, The Songs of Trees, and The Forest Unseen

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