Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction

Monica Gagliano, John C. Ryan, and Patrícia Vieira

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pp. vii-xxxiv

Plants are perhaps the most fundamental form of life, providing sustenance, and thus enabling the existence of all animals, including us humans. Their evolutionary transition from Paleozoic aquatic beginnings to a vegetative life out of water is undoubtedly one of the farthest-reaching events in the history of the earth. It was the silent yet relentless colonization of terrestrial environments by the earliest land plants that transformed the global landscape and radically altered the geochemical cycles of the planet. This resulted in lowered concentrations...

Part I. Science

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1. The Language of Plant Communication (and How It Compares to Animal Communication)

Richard Karban

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pp. 3-26

Plants have been viewed in popular culture as organisms that are unable to sense their environments and are unresponsive as a result. In fact, this view is incorrect; plants perceive their own state and many aspects of their surroundings and adjust numerous traits depending upon these conditions. Many “plant behaviors” increase the fitness of the individuals that display them relative to individuals displaying other alternative behaviors. In addition to sensing, plants communicate among tissues on the same individual to coordinate their responses...

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2. Speaking in Chemical Tongues: Decoding the Language of Plant Volatiles

Robert A. Raguso and André Kessler

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pp. 27-61

Plant chemicals mediate a full spectrum of plant– environment interactions. For example volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by plants drive antagonistic interactions with herbivores and pathogens, mutualistic interactions with pollinators, mycorrhizal fungi, and rhizobia, and often play crucial roles when an organism deceives or exploits another in the scramble for costly resources. Thus, plant chemistry provides one of the primary “languages” through which plants interact with their environment (Karban, this book), and VOCs emitted...

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3. Unraveling the “Radiometric Signals” from Green Leaves

Christian Nansen

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pp. 62-83

We are all very familiar with the visual display, or signaling, of flowering plants. Through combinations of morphology, colors, color patterns, and scent (volatiles), flowers and their intricate relationship with pollinators represent some of the most extraordinary examples of coevolution between plants and animals. Extreme relationships between flowers and pollinators are found in plant species from the orchid family. It suffices to take a look at botanical (Hopper and Brown 2007) and pollination literature (PBS 2016) about hammer orchids...

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4. Breaking the Silence: Green Mudras and the Faculty of Language in Plants

Monica Gagliano

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pp. 84-100

Language is often said to be one of the hallmarks of being human and is thought to have emerged from the interactions of three adaptive systems, namely, individual learning, cultural transmission, and biological evolution (Christiansen and Kirby 2003). The faculty of language has provided humans with an effective tool for classifying experiences, discriminating events, and communicating what has been learned to others, thus steering adaptive adjustments to our way of being in (and relating to) the environment. There are many theories about...

Part II. Philosophy

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5. To Hear Plants Speak

Michael Marder

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pp. 103-125

Humans are social beings anxious to communicate well beyond the confines of our own time and place— with future generations, with hypothetical extraterrestrial civilizations, or with other animals, such as dolphins, who interact through sonar media. In each case, the expansion of the linguistic model is faced with the problem of encoding a message intended for others (be they human or not) and deciphering possible messages emitted by them. But only very rarely does language itself become a problem....

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6. What the Vegetal World Says to Us

Luce Irigaray

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pp. 126-135

The vegetal world is the most ancient environment, and even dwelling place, of humanity. Unfortunately, above all in the West, it is more and more considered to represent the memory of a primitive and wild life that our culture has permitted us to overcome. For a long time, it, at least, remained a background of our infancy, which accompanied our discovery of life and our growth. We came into a world of trees, bushes, grass, and flowers, which helped us find our own breathing and, little by little, reach autonomy with respect to our mother, whose...

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7. The Intelligence of Plants and the Problem of Language: A Wittgensteinian Approach

Nancy E. Baker

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pp. 136-154

There is the language of plants and our language for plants. It is the latter that will occupy me here, but, of course, our language for plants will include how we talk about the language of plants. Science, needless to say, is essentially concerned with empirical questions or problems, namely, with facts or, said differently, with the truth or falsity of statements about phenomena. Occasionally, however, science runs up against purely conceptual issues, such as those that arise in the development of a new paradigm. But even in a settled, working...

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8. A Tree by Any Other Name: Language Use and Linguistic Responsibility

Karen L. F. Houle

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pp. 155-172

September. I am flying to Washington from Toronto for a philosophy conference. Since I’ll be at the airport from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., I pack a lunch: a tuna sandwich, a juice box, and an apple from the Guelph Farmers’ Market. She’s a beauty, an “Empire.” The apples are sublime this time of year. I eat my sandwich and drink the juice on the way to Toronto Pearson Airport. Passing through U.S. customs, the agent asks me if I have any agricultural products to declare? I say “No.” Either I forgot that I still had the apple, or the expression...

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9. What Vegetables Are Saying about Themselves

Timothy Morton

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pp. 173-190

Arthur Schopenhauer is one of those too neglected philosophers of the nineteenth century who deserves fresh attention. Schopenhauer is a Kantian who takes Kant’s thought and pushes it toward a disturbingly realist vision. In this vision, a gigantic swirling will “represents” itself in objects: a pencil, a galaxy, a lizard, a human. This will is the one and only truly real thing in the universe. Everything else is a phenomenon of will. We cannot access will directly: we can only access will-phenomena such as raindrops and starlight. When you hit...

Part III. Literature

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10. The Language of Flowers in Popular Culture and Botany

Isabel Kranz

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pp. 193-214

One of the main characters in Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s bestselling novel The Language of Flowers (2011), Elizabeth, explains the concept of a secret floral code to her foster daughter: “It’s from the Victorian era, like your name. If a man gave a young lady a bouquet of flowers, she would race home and try to decode it like a secret message. Red roses mean love; yellow roses infi delity. So a man would have to choose his flowers carefully.”1

According to a dictionary from the nineteenth century that Elizabeth uses, each flower stands in for a specific concept, and by...

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11. Phytographia: Literature as Plant Writing

Patrícia Vieira

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pp. 215-233

Humans have always been fascinated by the possibility that plants could share their stories. If they could converse, what would they tell us?1 What language would they use and how would they describe their wordless existence? It is now well established that plants communicate, for instance, through biochemical signals, both among themselves and with other living beings, notably insects, in order to warn of danger, to attract pollinators, to repel potential predators, and so on.2 But the plant tales that appeal to humans the most are not the ones that testify to the pragmatics...

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12. Insinuations: Thinking Plant Politics with The Day of the Triffids

Joni Adamson and Catriona Sandilands

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pp. 234-252

John Wyndham’s classic postapocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids (1951) is generally read as a work of Cold War science fiction that also raises provocative questions about altruism, self-sufficiency, and gender politics. In the novel, Earth’s human population is almost entirely blinded by a meteor event (implied later to be the result of the detonation of an orbiting satellite weapon). Told from the perspective of Londoner Bill Masen, one of the world’s few sighted survivors, the story includes his and others’ ethical deliberations about which of the...

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13. What the Plant Says: Plant Narrators and the Ecosocial Imaginary

Erin James

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pp. 253-272

Stephen Wright’s 1983 novel about the Vietnam War, Meditations in Green, begins with an unexpected voice: “Here I am up in the window, that indistinguishable head you see listing toward the sun and waiting to be watered. Through a pair of strong fi eld glasses you might be able to make out the color of my leaf (milky green), my flower (purplewhite), and the poor profile of my stunted growth. In open country with stem and root room I could top four feet. Want a true botanical friend? Guess my species and you can take me home.”1 The first words...

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14. In the Key of Green? The Silent Voices of Plants in Poetry

John C. Ryan

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pp. 273-296

In his 1826 Observations on the Growth of the Mind, Sampson Reed wrote: “Everything which is, whether animal or vegetable, is full of the expression of that use for which it is designed, as of its own existence....Let [us] respect the smallest blade which grows, and permit it to speak for itself. Then may there be poetry, which may not be written perhaps, but which may be felt as a part of our being.”1 Since this plaintive appeal by Reed, allowing the “smallest blade” (or, prickliest spine or loveliest heart- shaped leaf) to speak has become a technological...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 297-298

Contributors

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pp. 299-302

Index

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pp. 303-313