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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

What a Fir Tree Feels

To the Editors:

In her review of Daniel Chamovitz’s book What a Plant Knows in the Scientists’ Bookshelf section of the September–October 2012 issue, Andrea Wills rightly emphasizes the supreme importance to scientific endeavor of simple human curiosity. There is an unfortunate tendency on the part of many biologists to automatically deride investigations into plant perception as mere exercises in pseudoscience, time-wasting, and intellectual dishonesty. It is true that numerous charlatans have journeyed down this particular path. Yet, it is also true that organisms like Mimosa pudica, Cuscuta pentagona, and Arabidopsis demonstrate “something” that certainly seems like perception.

I have no idea what, if anything, a large and healthy oak tree “knows,” or what a monumentally impressive fir tree “feels.” Individuals whose scientific qualifications far exceed my own are in the best position to find out.

In the meantime, I shall maintain an intense curiosity about the sensory abilities of all plants.

Frank W. Goheen
Camas, WA


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