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Lessons from Plants

Beronda L. Montgomery

ISBN 9780674241282

Publication date: 04/06/2021

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An exploration of how plant behavior and adaptation offer valuable insights for human thriving.

We know that plants are important. They maintain the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. They nourish other living organisms and supply psychological benefits to humans as well, improving our moods and beautifying the landscape around us. But plants don’t just passively provide. They also take action.

Beronda L. Montgomery explores the vigorous, creative lives of organisms often treated as static and predictable. In fact, plants are masters of adaptation. They “know” what and who they are, and they use this knowledge to make a way in the world. Plants experience a kind of sensation that does not require eyes or ears. They distinguish kin, friend, and foe, and they are able to respond to ecological competition despite lacking the capacity of fight-or-flight. Plants are even capable of transformative behaviors that allow them to maximize their chances of survival in a dynamic and sometimes unfriendly environment.

Lessons from Plants enters into the depth of botanic experience and shows how we might improve human society by better appreciating not just what plants give us but also how they achieve their own purposes. What would it mean to learn from these organisms, to become more aware of our environments and to adapt to our own worlds by calling on perception and awareness? Montgomery’s meditative study puts before us a question with the power to reframe the way we live: What would a plant do?

Praise

  • An accessible and, thankfully, jargon-free introduction to a science that has advanced a great deal recently—and has revolutionized the way that we look at our evolutionary predecessors…For the curious, Lessons from Plants is an excellent introduction to a world that most of us know too little about.

    —Richard Schiffman, Christian Science Monitor

Awards

  • 2023, Winner of the Hutchinson Medal of the Chicago Horticultural Society

Author

  • Beronda L. Montgomery is Professor of Biology, and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Grinnell College. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Plant Biologists, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Academy of Microbiology, she was named one of Cell’s 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America and was the winner of the 2021 Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award and the 2022 Adolph E. Gude, Jr. Award for outstanding service to the science of plant biology.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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