Disclaimer | This article may contain affiliate links, this means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for qualifying purchases.
“So, put aside for a couple of hours your accustomed anthropocentrism, and step into this other, richer, and more wonderful world. You won’t regret it, and you won’t emerge from it ever quite the same again.”
—from the foreword by Michael Pollan
Washington, DC (October 16, 2021)— Are plants intelligent? That’s the provocative question plant physiologist Stefano Mancuso tackles in Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, newly available in paperback (Publication Date: October 16, 2021). Mancuso presents a resounding argument that they are—and in the process, overturns not only our perspective on plants, but indeed our perspective on intelligence itself. A speaker at TED 2010 whose work has been featured in the New Yorker, Mancuso is an enthusiastic guide to the plant world who isn’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom.
In this slim but enlightening volume, Mancuso points out that plants have to accomplish all the same tasks as animals do—but without moving from where they were born or making use of specialized organs. From finding water to reproducing to evading predators, plants display a remarkable range of talents. Mancuso argues plants outshine not only their own reputation, but also animal skills: after all, plants can hunt and trick animals—and even lure humans with flowers and fruits.
Brilliant Green offers many revelations about the plant world: there are more than 600 carnivorous plants, roots make noise that may well serve as a means of communication with neighbors, and plants can survive even if 95% of their body is eaten. And the vegetal potential of our planet is still untapped. Not only may the plant world’s chemical abundance well hold compounds crucial to the future of our pharmacies, but Mancuso shows why one day in the not-so-distant future, we may well have an ‘internet of plants’ that uses plants’ unique monitoring and communications talents to relay information about air and soil quality or impending earthquakes.
Packed with gripping scientific insights and a unique perspective, Brilliant Green is a fascinating and eye-opening tour of the green and growing world that we so often take for granted.
Stefano Mancuso is the Director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV) in Florence, Italy, a founder of the International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior, and a professor at the University of Florence. His most recent project is the Jellyfish Barge, a modular floating greenhouse which grows plants through solar-powered seawater desalination, featured in the 2015 Universal Expo in Milan. Mancuso’s books and papers have been published in numerous international magazines and journals, and La Repubblica newspaper has listed him among the twenty people who will change our lives. Alessandra Viola is a scientific journalist, writer of documentaries, and television scriptwriter. In 2011, she directed the Genoa Science Festival.