Audubon Magazine

Audubon Magazine

Alisa Opar
Published: 12/13/2012

Judiciously manipulating similes with dashes of anthropomorphism, Chamovitz introduces each of the vital human senses (all except taste) and explains its meaning for humans as contrasted with its function in plants. There are no noses or eyes as such in the plant world, but there are organs and responses that mimic our physiology. The author recounts, for instance, how willows, attacked by caterpillars, send airborne pheromones to neighboring willows. Warned by these gaseous signals (or “smells”) of a nearby infestation, the neighbors begin manufacturing increased levels of toxic chemicals to render their leaves unpalatable to the caterpillars.—Frank Graham Jr.

 

How Not to Be Eaten: The Insects Fight Back

By Gilbert Waldbauer

University of California Press, 240 pages, $27.95 (Buy it)

For the 900,000 known insect species, about 75 percent of the known animal species on earth, staying alive by any means necessary requires a variety of defenses. In his new book, Gilbert Waldbauer, a professor emeritus of entomology at the University of Illinois, uses a plethora of studies from scores of researchers to show that whether they walk, swim, or fl y, insects are unparalleled in their ability to eat plants and other insects, parasitize mammals and transmit disease (thus helping to keep populations in check), and function as a sanitation corps by recycling and redistributing nutrients from dung and dead plants and animals.—Susan Cosier

 

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

By Jim Robbins

Spiegel & Grau, 240 pages, $25 (Buy it)

“Imagine a world without trees,” writes journalist Jim Robbins. It’s nearly impossible after reading The Man Who Planted Trees, in which Robbins weaves science and spirituality as he explores the bounty these plants offer the planet. They feed oceans, clean air, release anti-cancer compounds, and affect the water cycle. Robbins also tells the story of David Milarch, who, after nearly dying from kidney and liver failure in 1987, has dedicated himself to saving trees.—Daisy Yuhas

 

Mushroom

By Nicholas P. Money

Oxford University Press, 201 pages, $24.95 (Buy it)

Blood-foot, stinkhorn, and the deadly webcaps are just three oozing, putrid, or poisonous species among the wide array of fungi described in botanist Nicholas P. Money’s vivid new book, Mushroom. Money delves into the science behind their spore-spewing and hallucinogenic properties, exploring their place in nature and culture. The book is littered with references to individuals who have made their mark in mycology, clarifying the seemingly mystical properties of fungi, the least studied and least understood kingdom of life.—Susan Cosier

 

Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story

By Dame Daphne Sheldrick

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 352 pages, $27 (Buy it)

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