Book Review: Lessons from Plants by Beronda L. Montgomery

This book was recommended to me by a coworker a few months back. I bought it, it sat on a shelf, I finally read it – and gosh am I glad I did! It made me smile and break out a highlighter.

Below I share a quick synopsis of my thoughts on Lessons from Plants by the incredible Beronda L. Montgomery as well as some of what I highlighted in the book!

This book really does what I hoped it would: it gave me new questions to ask about both plants and humans.

The Good

  • The writing is beautiful, motivating, and jam-packed with science.
  • The author is a totally awesome biochemist/molecular biologist/micro-biologist who truly knows and loves plants!
  • The book goes into enough botany depth that it’s interesting to a scientist/biologist, but not so much that you get too caught up in detail. It gave me new topics to look into and get excited about without being a heavy read.

The Bad

  • I always hesitate to too strongly compare lifestyles across organisms to avoid risking anthropocentrism. I love metaphor and think observing the lives around us is extremely worthwhile, but I think at some point comparisons fall short.
  • I wish this book was longer! I enjoyed it tons.

The Urban

  • The book is a quick and easy read
  • It’s great for motivation and inspiration
  • It’s a great way to get your bio fix, whether you’re a life scientist or not
  • Just look at that cover art! Gorgeous

Lessons from Plants enters into the depth of botanic experience and shows how we might improve human society by better appreciating not just what plants give us but also how they achieve their own purposes.”


“The effects of environmental history can be observed as early as when the embryonic plant emerges from the seed. This stage…is affected both by the dynamics of the environment in which the plant is rooted and by the environmental history of the population from which it arose.”

page 114

“Many plants…detect the presence of each other through volatile organic compounds…They are often regarded as a form of language.”

page 37

“Plants whose roots are connected via mycorrhizae can signal to each other.”

am i obsessed with mycorrhizae and how they form a giant nervous system? definitely. and, page 48

“Mycorrhizae [associations between a plant and a fungus] not only acquire carbon from the plants they colonize, but they also facilitate the sharing of carbon among the individuals that they interconnect.”

page 103, [] from page 48

“Plants compete only when competition is needed…”

page 140

I mean, aren’t plants stunning? These things we regard as stagnant, reliant, are – in comparison to us – primordial, maybe even genius. We do have much to learn from our plant friends.

Enjoy some bonus content I didn’t tell you about earlier (a poem I scribbled in the back of my copy of Lessons from Plants)


oh, on being slow to grow

and slow to demise:

and to persist across

the wiles of time,

on a scale all one’s own;

to be of multi-directional height,

of the very core of the earth

and the care of the sky.

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