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The Sydney Morning Herald: What we can learn from our vegetal friends

By Fiona Capp
The Sydney Morning Herald

The Language of Plants (editors: Monica Gagliano, John C. Ryan, and Patricia Vieira)Henry David Thoreau believed that "the mystery of the life of plants is kindred with that of our own lives". If we are to begin to plumb this mystery and hear what plants have to say, we need to rethink our definition of language, say the authors of these paradigm-shifting academic essays. They argue for a better understanding of modes of plant biochemical expression – hormonal, electrical, olfactory or in the form of interaction with micro-organisms – as well as analysing the meanings we have imposed upon the botanical world through literature and philosophy. From notions of plant intelligence to decoding the lexicon of compounds that allows vegetal life to communicate with friends, foes and themselves, this mind-expanding work opens up new ways of apprehending the world. As Luce Irigaray observes: "A tree teaches us in silence."

This review appears on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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The Language of Plants