The Light Eaters

Zoë Schlanger


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HarperCollins Publishers
9 May 2024
ISBN: 9780008445348
304 pages

From the publisher

“teeming with fascinating and enlightening insights” Observer

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

Did you know plants can communicate when they are being eaten, allowing nearby plants to bolster their defences? They move and that movement stops when they are anaesthetised. They also use electricity for internal communication. They can hear the sounds of caterpillars eating. Plants can remember the last time they have been visited by a bee and how many times they have been visited – so they have a concept of time and can count. Plants can not only communicate with each other, they can also communicate with other species of plants and animals, allowing them to manipulate animals to defend or fertilise them.

So look again at the potted plant, or the grass or the tree and wonder: are plants intelligent?

Or perhaps ask an even more fundamental question: are they conscious?

The Light Eaters will completely redefine how you think about 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.