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Book Reviews Spring 2020

The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A new understanding of plant intelligence and behavior

By Stephano Mancuso, 2018.

This fascinating tour of some the latest research on plants is paired with discussion of some of their most remarkable evolutionary traits and how we can use them to design a better world. It is both a great read and an eye opener. The thought that plants could be intelligent when they clearly lack a brain has been dismissed for too long.

Instead of a centralized nervous system, plants have a diffused system for remembering, communicating, sensing their environment, and adapting their behavior. This has led to wondrous examples of how plants manipulate their environment along with the animals in it. Experiments and results from Mancuso’s own lab as well as that of others will have you in awe of their abilities. He concludes with his landmark experiment showing that plants are capable of sensing and responding within seconds to a zero-gravity situation, something they could not possibly have evolved to do! Because plants are so different from ourselves, it has taken a long time for us to recognize their intelligence. Mancuso urges us to appreciate the wonders of plants while contemplating our own reliance on their well being.

Thus Spoke the Plant: A remarkable journey of groundbreaking discoveries and personal encounters with plants.

By Monica Gagliano, PhD. 2018.

In this fascinating book, Gagliano takes us with her on parallel journeys; testing and studying the behavior of plants in a University laboratory, and exploring various shamanic traditions that view plants as their teachers. In her laboratory work Gagliano tests the response of mimosa plants to touch (this work is also described in Mancuso’s book), the response of pea plants to the sound of water, and the availability of light. She simultaneously crosses the globe to diet with powerful plants that guide her scientific research as well as her shamanic understanding.

A truly rare scientist, Gagliano is willing to break with almost every preconceived idea as she goes about her work to elucidate what plants can teach us about how they make their way in the world and how we can be better stewards of the natural world around us. We too should abandon some of the ideas that prevent us from seeing plants as the survivors and life givers they are. This book may open your mind about the inner lives of plants and change your world view. After all plants have successfully colonized and adapted to changing climate on this planet for far longer than any organism in the animal kingdom.

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