The Light Eaters

Schlanger, Zoë

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.