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The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behaviour

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Based on the immensely popular six-part BBC program that aired in the United States during the fall of 1995, this book offers what writer/filmmaker David Attenborough is best known for delivering: an intimate view of the natural world wherein a multitude of miniature dramas unfold. In the program and book, both titled The Private Life of Plants, Attenborough treks through Based on the immensely popular six-part BBC program that aired in the United States during the fall of 1995, this book offers what writer/filmmaker David Attenborough is best known for delivering: an intimate view of the natural world wherein a multitude of miniature dramas unfold. In the program and book, both titled The Private Life of Plants, Attenborough treks through rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, beaches, and home gardens to show us things we might never have suspected about the vegetation that surrounds us. With their extraordinary sensibility, plants compete endlessly for survival and interact with animals and insects: they can see, count, communicate, adjust position, strike, and capture. Attenborough makes the plant world a vivid place for readers, who in this book can enjoy the tour at their own pace, taking in the lively descriptions and nearly 300 full-color photos showing plants in close detail. The author reveals to us the aspects of plants' lives that seem hidden from view, such as fighting, avoiding or exploiting predators or neighbors, and struggling to find food, increase their territories, reproduce themselves, and establish their place in the sun. Among the most amazing examples, the acacia can communicate with other acacias and repel enemies that might eat their leaves, the orchid can impersonate female wasps to attract males and ensure the spreading of its pollen, the Venus's flytrap can take other organisms captive and consume them. Covering this remarkable range of information with enthusiasm and clarity, Attenborough helps us to look anew at the vegetation on which all life depends and which has an intriguing life of its own. He has created a book sure to please the plant lover and any other reader interested in exploring the natural world.


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Based on the immensely popular six-part BBC program that aired in the United States during the fall of 1995, this book offers what writer/filmmaker David Attenborough is best known for delivering: an intimate view of the natural world wherein a multitude of miniature dramas unfold. In the program and book, both titled The Private Life of Plants, Attenborough treks through Based on the immensely popular six-part BBC program that aired in the United States during the fall of 1995, this book offers what writer/filmmaker David Attenborough is best known for delivering: an intimate view of the natural world wherein a multitude of miniature dramas unfold. In the program and book, both titled The Private Life of Plants, Attenborough treks through rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, beaches, and home gardens to show us things we might never have suspected about the vegetation that surrounds us. With their extraordinary sensibility, plants compete endlessly for survival and interact with animals and insects: they can see, count, communicate, adjust position, strike, and capture. Attenborough makes the plant world a vivid place for readers, who in this book can enjoy the tour at their own pace, taking in the lively descriptions and nearly 300 full-color photos showing plants in close detail. The author reveals to us the aspects of plants' lives that seem hidden from view, such as fighting, avoiding or exploiting predators or neighbors, and struggling to find food, increase their territories, reproduce themselves, and establish their place in the sun. Among the most amazing examples, the acacia can communicate with other acacias and repel enemies that might eat their leaves, the orchid can impersonate female wasps to attract males and ensure the spreading of its pollen, the Venus's flytrap can take other organisms captive and consume them. Covering this remarkable range of information with enthusiasm and clarity, Attenborough helps us to look anew at the vegetation on which all life depends and which has an intriguing life of its own. He has created a book sure to please the plant lover and any other reader interested in exploring the natural world.

30 review for The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behaviour

  1. 4 out of 5

    Harry Doble

    The written counterpart to Attenborough's television series of the same name. If you are looking for a bunch of "are you shitting me" moments, this is your book. Highlights for me include the migration of the sea-bean and the elaborate nectar bribes of the Bucket Orchid. The written counterpart to Attenborough's television series of the same name. If you are looking for a bunch of "are you shitting me" moments, this is your book. Highlights for me include the migration of the sea-bean and the elaborate nectar bribes of the Bucket Orchid.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    I throughly appreciated this colorful plate laden book. The explanations were easily understood. I never had to Goodgle anything as their were color plates carefully chosen to show what Attenborough was describing. I feel as though I have read an enjoyable beginning botany text book. I will not likely re-read, so 4 Stars. But I do plan to watch his series on YouTube. Read this month honor of Earth Day April 22.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Crane

    Another Attenborough classic: David Attenborough makes the point right at the start of The Private Life of Plants that plants aren't boring, they just live on a different timescale than us humans. With this book he thoroughly justifies this; plants travel thousands of miles by their seeds, crawl and brawl over each other with plants such as brambles engaging in open warfare with their competitors, and trick a panoply of animals into pollinating them or dispersing their seeds. There are so many fa Another Attenborough classic: David Attenborough makes the point right at the start of The Private Life of Plants that plants aren't boring, they just live on a different timescale than us humans. With this book he thoroughly justifies this; plants travel thousands of miles by their seeds, crawl and brawl over each other with plants such as brambles engaging in open warfare with their competitors, and trick a panoply of animals into pollinating them or dispersing their seeds. There are so many fascinating plants in this book it is difficult to say which is my favourite; I like the window plant which stays submerged in the desert to conserve water and channels light to its photosynthesising cells via clear crystals of oxalic acid. I also like the sequoias just for their sheer size. I guarantee that if you read this book you will never look at plants in the same way again!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Fascinating book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Noora Karoliina

    Absolutely brilliant book! If you want your mind to be wildly exploding, you will want to read this. In this Attenborough paints a vivid picture of the plant world, and shows the most amazing examples of creatures within. It's hard to say whether it's just the format of it, but it felt like the book-version was for me easier to follow than the documentary films, and I could easily re-read the parts that shocked and surprised me the most. It was still the same old Attenborough, and nothing was go Absolutely brilliant book! If you want your mind to be wildly exploding, you will want to read this. In this Attenborough paints a vivid picture of the plant world, and shows the most amazing examples of creatures within. It's hard to say whether it's just the format of it, but it felt like the book-version was for me easier to follow than the documentary films, and I could easily re-read the parts that shocked and surprised me the most. It was still the same old Attenborough, and nothing was going too far into the detail, so in case you really want to know more about some specific thing, you will need to find it out by yourself. It's both lovely and merciless, as you really would wish he could tell you all of it, right now, but.. I guess that's a good sign! The only difficulty for me in the book (besides not wanting it to end, ever) was the partly shaky translation of his down-to-earth writing. And that's only because of the finnish language, I think (as I've seen this problem a few times before, when a writer uses their english in a very distinctive way, and it shows trough as awkward and trying-too-hard-vibes in finnish). The book is meant to be read by anyone, and therefore it's vocabulary has been altered and stripped down of any difficult, so basically scientific terms. I still have to admit that at the same time as I really do respect the low treshold, because anyone with any level of knowledge really could use this information, sometimes the easy metaphors and childish verbs made me feel like the reader is considered a bit too simple. Most of the time the reading was still very enjoyable, and the text flowy! It's hard to criticise something so lovely, but I want to keep my over-selling in a relatively normal level. Because all in all this was one of the best decisions I've made reading-wise, ever and forever. It gave me a huge amoung of new perspective and child-like wonder, and that's something everyone needs in their lives. I was constantly shaking my head laughing because of our leafy loller-friends and their unbelievably stunning, ridiculously genious weird wonders, as it was as hard to believe as all the other craziness on this planet. Which means: really hard. It's going to get a violent recommendation-boost in the near future!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vaishali Gupta

    Having read "the hidden life of trees" by Peter Wohlleben, this book was quite a visual delight. The plant phenomenon detailed by Sir David in the book weren't new to me thanks to the other book but the versatility and flourish with which the books details them is surely very enthralling. The visual details for every point and example adds to the experience. At times, one could almost hear him speak as one looked at those pictures as if watching the BBC series itself. Having read "the hidden life of trees" by Peter Wohlleben, this book was quite a visual delight. The plant phenomenon detailed by Sir David in the book weren't new to me thanks to the other book but the versatility and flourish with which the books details them is surely very enthralling. The visual details for every point and example adds to the experience. At times, one could almost hear him speak as one looked at those pictures as if watching the BBC series itself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    If you love to marvel at the creation and the intracacies of the web of life, this is a great walk-through book with fascinating but never tendentious text and lavish photographs illustrating many of the wondrous plants and creatures it explains. Whether David Attenborough actually wrote the text or just lent his name to the enterprise, this is a good book drawn from a PBS series. You can learn everything from how orchids tempt some bees to pollinate them by displaying a petal that looks like a f If you love to marvel at the creation and the intracacies of the web of life, this is a great walk-through book with fascinating but never tendentious text and lavish photographs illustrating many of the wondrous plants and creatures it explains. Whether David Attenborough actually wrote the text or just lent his name to the enterprise, this is a good book drawn from a PBS series. You can learn everything from how orchids tempt some bees to pollinate them by displaying a petal that looks like a female bee in heat, to desert plants that hide most of their leaves underground to avoid the blistering sun but have clear tips above the ground with lenses to gather the light for sustenance, to plants that trap beetles in underground chambers so they can get the nutrients from their carcasses to how a mature oak tree can host more than 100 species of moths. Just wonderful stuff.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dominika

    Whimsy is often thought of as something fantastical and other worldly, but this book has filled me with a sense of whimsy that rivals the likes of Terry Pratchett. I've always loved David Attenborough. His documentaries and how he focuses on these humanizing tiny details within nature, bring that childlike sense of wonder about the world. Admittedly, I adored watching Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin as a child (I totally had a crush on Jeff when I was 8 <3) and ecology has been the first science tha Whimsy is often thought of as something fantastical and other worldly, but this book has filled me with a sense of whimsy that rivals the likes of Terry Pratchett. I've always loved David Attenborough. His documentaries and how he focuses on these humanizing tiny details within nature, bring that childlike sense of wonder about the world. Admittedly, I adored watching Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin as a child (I totally had a crush on Jeff when I was 8 <3) and ecology has been the first science that I've loved (which I think is true of a lot of children) and I think as I read this, I felt myself being transported to a time where I wanted nothing more than to be a scientist studying the rainforests of Costa Rica. If you are interested in world-building or creating a fantasy universe, this book serves as great inspiration.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura Gilfillan

    I liked the bits of new information I was able to pick up, and the photos were fantastic, but I found myself feeling frustrated most of the time, as I usually do if I watch TV. I suppose it should be no surprise that since this went along with a TV series, it should be written in little "TV bites." A little tidbit of information, and then on to the next subject, leaving me still wanting to know more. Even though David Attenborough's style of writing is very entertaining, I still felt somehow uns I liked the bits of new information I was able to pick up, and the photos were fantastic, but I found myself feeling frustrated most of the time, as I usually do if I watch TV. I suppose it should be no surprise that since this went along with a TV series, it should be written in little "TV bites." A little tidbit of information, and then on to the next subject, leaving me still wanting to know more. Even though David Attenborough's style of writing is very entertaining, I still felt somehow unsatisfied.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    The book is absolutely fantastic and full of high quality photographs. I would undoubtedly give it five stars if it weren't for the Polish edition that I have read, which is more sloppy that I would ever expect. The text contains very basic punctuation mistakes (I would guess that the punctuation form the English original has been preserved) and occasional grammar errors. The book is absolutely fantastic and full of high quality photographs. I would undoubtedly give it five stars if it weren't for the Polish edition that I have read, which is more sloppy that I would ever expect. The text contains very basic punctuation mistakes (I would guess that the punctuation form the English original has been preserved) and occasional grammar errors.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    the man can do no wrong. really.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Another "top shelf" favorite! David Attenborough makes every topic he chooses captivating, intriguing, and altogether enjoyable, even those topics many people might call dull or boring, Another "top shelf" favorite! David Attenborough makes every topic he chooses captivating, intriguing, and altogether enjoyable, even those topics many people might call dull or boring,

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Excellent book, just as fun to read as it was to watch the series. I highly recommend this book to any plant lover.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Youweiparra

    Unlike the documentary, this book requires imagination. But as a book, this encyclopedia is closer to a story book than an actual encyclopedia. It is just facts, but the way Sir David Attenborough wrote the book; it more or less resembles a story book, with the seemingly most boring of life actually more closer to warfare, than just waiting. My favorite part was the beginning, when the movement of plants was being explained. That really opened my eye to the movement of simplistic plants.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    This book highlights some of the most astounding plants in our world. Every time I found myself thinking "but what on earth does that look like?" there was a beautiful, clarifying picture waiting for me on the page beside it. The only problem with this book is that sometimes it was so relaxing imagining things like the growth of a forest over decades that it put me to sleep. This book highlights some of the most astounding plants in our world. Every time I found myself thinking "but what on earth does that look like?" there was a beautiful, clarifying picture waiting for me on the page beside it. The only problem with this book is that sometimes it was so relaxing imagining things like the growth of a forest over decades that it put me to sleep.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Rigg

    The book is based on a BBC nature film, and it's chock full of wonderful color photos and strange and interesting facts about plants, their relationships with one another and with fungi and animals. A really fun and interesting read. The book is based on a BBC nature film, and it's chock full of wonderful color photos and strange and interesting facts about plants, their relationships with one another and with fungi and animals. A really fun and interesting read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Terry

    David Attenborough can do no wrong. This book was brilliantly informative without being tedious and covered a good amount of information.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Geniene Hourigan-culp

    Easily one of the best books I've ever read. Intelligent and informative, and best of all, I can hear Attenborough's beautiful voice in every word. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. Intelligent and informative, and best of all, I can hear Attenborough's beautiful voice in every word.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This book is wonderfully and engagingly written! It describes the wide variety of adaptations and lifestyles of plants around the globe and brings drama to plants.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Furches

    Wonderful!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mya

    Reading this in the voice of Attenborough was quite the treat

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    Technically, I have not read this book but I have recently watched the BBC series that it is based on. I simply adore the different BBC natural series with David Attenborough as narrator.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sean Hogan

    Source: A Walk in the Woods

  24. 5 out of 5

    tadhg

    we need more focus on all the rad non-animal life

  25. 5 out of 5

    Asheg Brom

    Yet another Attenborough classic, making you change your views on, and heighten your wonder of, what's around you every day. Yet another Attenborough classic, making you change your views on, and heighten your wonder of, what's around you every day.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sofie Louise

    my fav book by this fine man. Great images and really cemented how damn incredible plants are.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Charlene Soan

    Absolutely fascinating, I love Attenboroughs books.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Book collector

    The book of the tv series. Brilliant. There's not much to say and I'm going to put this review on most of the other books in the series. Why? Well because the books follow a simple pattern. They are all fascinating to read, filled with gorgeous photos and brilliantly written by one of the most fascinating and influential people of our lives. The wonderful David attenborough. With the reprint of life on earth I'm so hoping they reprint more of his books as I'd love to have new copies of these wel The book of the tv series. Brilliant. There's not much to say and I'm going to put this review on most of the other books in the series. Why? Well because the books follow a simple pattern. They are all fascinating to read, filled with gorgeous photos and brilliantly written by one of the most fascinating and influential people of our lives. The wonderful David attenborough. With the reprint of life on earth I'm so hoping they reprint more of his books as I'd love to have new copies of these well thumbed natural history volumes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    I loved this book! Colored pictures on every page! While reading it I started watching the Planet Earth Dvds and I really think that helped enhance the book. It feels like I learned a lot reading this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    David Attenborough reveals the wondrous diversity and the beautiful stories of the plant (and fungus) world. In the elegant prose of a true British naturalist, he shows rather than tells the way adaptation of similar structures to a huge array of niches has resulted in all the plants. There are a few things plants need (light, water, nutrients, and warmth.) How they acquire these resources in scarcity and against competition explains many of the more interesting plant features. The rest seemingl David Attenborough reveals the wondrous diversity and the beautiful stories of the plant (and fungus) world. In the elegant prose of a true British naturalist, he shows rather than tells the way adaptation of similar structures to a huge array of niches has resulted in all the plants. There are a few things plants need (light, water, nutrients, and warmth.) How they acquire these resources in scarcity and against competition explains many of the more interesting plant features. The rest seemingly all have to do with reproduction: achieving fertilization and getting enough seeds to places they can successfully germinate. I wish I'd read this book when I was much younger. It makes a lot of sense of plants, and is simply fascinating in its own right. It's a quick read, with lots of very pretty glossy pictures.

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