A new look at plants by Stefano Mancuso

sometimes you just need change point of view to discover a new world. It’s the feeling that you feel after reading Stefano Mancuso’s books .

Mancuso, professor at the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Florence, is one of the most renowned researchers in the world in the field of plant neurobiology . Besides being an important scientist, he also has a knack for being able to divulge, for dealing with complex concepts in simple words, and never getting bored. His books, from Brilliant Green to the recent The Nation of Plants, accompany us on a true rediscovery of the plant world .

What follows is not a review of a single book, but an introduction intended an invitation to read Works by Mancuso. Those who cultivate know how important plants are to them, but they are important to everyone, we owe our lives to these living beings and reading Mancuso we will be surprised at the extraordinary things they are capable of doing. Plants are a fundamental part of the world we live in, as we will discover when reading Bright Green, too often our gaze has been superficial.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • Look at the plant world with other eyes

  • Plants: another evolution

  • The intelligence of plants

  • Books by Stefano Mancuso


See the world of plants with different eyes

Planet Earth is dominated by the presence of plant organisms , motionless, immobile, almost inert organisms… or so it may seem to us. This misconception has been with us for centuries (in Western culture).

Already Aristotle he believed that plants possessed a lower soul level than other living beings and that they differed from inanimate things only in their ability to reproduce. Western thought has often gone in this direction… emblematic is the division made by Cherles De Bovelles in Liber de Sapiente in 1509, he divided the species into 4 categories: rocks (which exist and only exist), plants (which exist and live), animals (which exist, live and smell) and men who have these three characteristics and who are intelligent. This is the idea that we have been carrying for centuries.

Bright green book image

This way of seeing has strongly guided man in his relationship with plants, situating himself evolutionarily in them. It has actually prevented us from the possibility of a deeper and better understanding of the plant world. .

Plants: another evolution

Plants are capable of extraordinary things, Mancuso guides us to discover those living beings that not only respond to stimuli, but can solve problems, have touch, hearing, smell, taste, sight and other senses to perceive the world. are able to communicate among themselves and with the animals, until they can deceive them. You will discover that the plants are true intelligent organisms some of his abilities are emerging in recent years thanks to a new point of view.

Let’s start with this: plants are no less evolved , have evolved to remain immobile and therefore have different strategies. Mancuso in his book says that animals have only one basic answer to problems: to move: they are in danger and they run away, they are hungry and they go in search of food, etc. Plants they have evolutionarily “chosen” to stay still in one place They didn’t focus on movement, they didn’t focus on speed.

The differences between animals and plants are many and obvious, but one in particular is what creates the idea that one category is more intelligent and evolved and the other less so. Animals have a centralized system for everything, they have the heart which controls circulation, the lungs for respiration and the brain, the command center of our nervous system. From an evolutionary point of view, this system guarantees rapid responses. For beings in continuous movement, it is useful but it has a weak point: it is useless if the central parts of the system are compromised. We animals are fast but fragile beings.

The intelligence of plants

The standing plants had to resist the continuous predation of animals and micro-organisms, and resist all the climatic and environmental adversities of the place. This is why a centralized system cannot work. The plants must be able to survive, and survive very well even if a part is removed or damaged! They are modular organisms , that is, they have the same repeating structures and considerable regenerative capacity. The fact of not having a centralized system did not prevent them from perceiving the world around them and acting for their survival, solving the problems that life presented to them.

Plants can see without eyes, breathe without lungs, sense tactile and chemical stimuli, and perceive sound in response to soil vibrations. They can memorize and learn . Since they can’t move, they need to figure things out ahead of time, and the fact that they can live with low energy and do everything slowly makes us think they’re doing nothing. There is nothing worse.

All these functions are performed in a fuzzy manner in the plant, with cells capable of perceiving and interacting. Plant intelligence is different from ours, and we humans have built many systems the same way. We think of the operation of a computer with its processor and all its peripherals, a car or even our governmental structures. All are centralized and hierarchical in some way. It is a structure that we know well.

lately there is a new technology that helps us understand the intelligence of plants: the WEB . In the Internet network, each element has the same potential, there is no command center and many elements are networked, communicate and interact with the outside world. This is why the WEB is an artificial mechanism and it does not imitate the centralized structure that we are used to, but is more reminiscent of the structure with which a factory operates. And the result is amazing!

In the root system of a plant there are billions of root tips, in a corn seedling it has been estimated about ten billion, in a large tree in nature it cannot even be counted. Each of them can sense the surrounding environment by measuring: temperature, pressure, humidity, gravity, light, vibrations, various chemical gradients, etc. Finally, it offers a response that affects everything else in the plant. The responses to these stimuli are also communicated in various ways to the aerial part, we have studied signals that travel at different speeds, from instantaneous electrical signals to hormonal signals that travel through the lymphatic over several hours.

Mancuso’s books offer many examples of this evidence, reminding us that we don’t run the world. Plant biomass is about 99% of the total on Earth, and we could never live without plants, but without us they could manage without too many problems.

Brilliant Green and Plant Revolution are two books that can revolutionize the way we look at plants and, therefore, the whole world.

Books by Stefano Mancuso

If the article intrigued you, here is the author’s bibliography.

  • Brilliant green. Sensitivity and intelligence of the plant world. With Alessandra Viola. (Publisher Gunti, 2013)

  • Men who love plants. Stories of plant scientists (Giunti Editore, 2014)

  • Biodiversity. With Carlo Petrini. (SlowFood, 2015)

  • The plant revolution. (Co-editor, 2017)

  • Botanical. Journey into the plant universe. (Aboca, 2017)

  • The incredible journey of plants. (Laterza, 2018)

  • The land of plants. (Later, 2019)

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