Brilliant Green
192 pages, 5 x 8
20 illus.
Release Date:16 Oct 2018

Brilliant Green

The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence

Island Press

Are plants intelligent? Can they solve problems, communicate, and navigate their surroundings? Or are they passive, incapable of independent action or social behavior? Philosophers and scientists have pondered these questions since ancient Greece, most often concluding that plants are unthinking and inert: they are too silent, too sedentary – just too different from us. Yet discoveries over the past fifty years have challenged these ideas, shedding new light on the extraordinary capabilities and complex interior lives of plants.

In Brilliant Green, Stefano Mancuso, a leading scientist and founder of the field of plant neurobiology, presents a new paradigm in our understanding of the vegetal world. Combining a historical perspective with the latest in plant science, Mancuso argues that, due to cultural prejudices and human arrogance, we continue to underestimate plants. In fact, they process information, sleep, remember, and signal to one another – showing that, far from passive machines, plants are intelligent and aware. Through a survey of plant capabilities from sight and touch to communication, Mancuso challenges our notion of intelligence, presenting a vision of plant life that is more sophisticated than most imagine.

Plants have much to teach us, from network building to innovations in robotics and man-made materials – but only if we understand more about how they live. Part botany lesson, part manifesto, Brilliant Green is an engaging and passionate examination of the inner workings of the plant kingdom.

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 a television scriptwriter. In 2011, she directed the Genoa Science Festival.


1 The Root of the Problem

Plants and the Great Monotheistic Religions

The Plant World According to Writers and Philosophers

The Fathers of Botany: Linnaeus and Darwin

Humans Are the Most Evolved Species on the Planet. Or Are They?

Plants: Always Second Fiddle

2 The Plant: A Stranger

Euglena Versus Paramecium, an Even Match

Five Hundred Million Years Ago

A Plant Is a Colony

A Problem of Tempos

Life Without Plants: Impossible

3 The Senses of Plants






 . . . And Fifteen Other Senses!

4 Communication in Plants

Communication Inside the Plant

Communication Between Plants

Communication Between Plants and Animals

5 Plant Intelligence

Can We Speak of "Plant Intelligence"?

What Can We Learn from Artificial Intelligence?

Intelligence Unites, It Doesn’t Divide

Charles Darwin and the Intelligence of Plants

The Intelligent Plant

Each Plant Is a Living Internet Network

A Swarm of Roots

The Aliens Are Here (Plant Intelligence As a Model for Understanding Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

Plants' Sleep

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