Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Common Ground! Just Like Us! Plants by Bridget Heos

Did you know that a plant's leaves communicate? Plants also wear perfume... and cunning disguises. They even wage war, using armor and weapons.

Read on to learn all about our bodacious botanical friends--and how they're just like us.

Sure, plants make their own food by photosynthesis from sunlight, while people have to find lunch if they want to munch.

But some plants also crave meat, or what passes for meat if you are a Venus fly trap, which draws dinner with its sweet scent and chomps down on delicious fly burgers. Even more disgusting is the dead meat stink given off by the horse arum lily, which draws flies by the droves. They crawl into the lily, where they to come to their own dead end.

People get oxygen through respiration and lose water by perspiration, but plants lose water by transpiration. Yes, plants sweat, sort of!

One of the tallest trees on Earth, The Eucalyptus regnans, loses hundred of gallons per day through transpiration. The water comes up through the roots to the topmost leaves--as high as 325 feet. That's a tall drink of water.

And while some plants generously shade other plants to help them save water, others like the Australian Christmas tree are more like the Grinch, sending their roots out to tap other plants' roots and stealing sap for themselves. And then there's, not the Giving Tree, but the taking tree, the strangler fig, which takes over other trees as scaffolds to give their own leaves a place in the sun.

And when it comes to reproduction, plants dress themselves up for the prom, making themselves attractive to pollinators with bright colors, seductive perfumes, and sweet nectar aperatifs. And when it comes to their offspring, their seeds, plants can be pretty clever in giving them a good start in life. Some hide their seeds in tasty fruits, inviting animals to spread them widely. Some are like Velcro, hitching a ride on the more mobile animals' fur. Coconuts even go for cruises, floating on the seas until they drift to islands that need palm trees, and many plants have airborne seeds who soar into the friendly skies in the form of helicopters and parachutes to waft to fertile spots.

And as for warfare... Plants mount defense forces in the form of spines and thorns and prickles and poisons to fight off enemies. Beware!

In her latest in the Just Like Us series, Bridget Heos' Just Like Us! Plants (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) points to the ways in which all lifeforms are similar, slipping in serious botanical facts with great humor and an easy, breezy style. As in the other books in this series, David Clark's comic artwork is filled with jolly sight gags, anthropomorphic plants which spritz themselves with perfume atomizers and coconuts with suitcases and sunglasses cruising the high seas. Together Heos and Clark provide a lively but well-organized book, making for a tasty way for youngsters to learn botany painlessly. This is a worthy addition to the series and a first purchase for school and public libraries.

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