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Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,448 ratings  ·  202 reviews
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. Y ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published March 12th 2015 by Island Press (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Always Pouting
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really felt disappointed with this book because I was expecting much more science and content. The writing wasn't as mature and eloquent as I've come to expect with science and nonfiction books, even pop science. The majority of the book is spent talking about challenging our own belief systems and rethinking the way we view plants, but I felt like the supporting evidence was lacking. I already knew that plants use their pheromones to communicate and adjust based on one another's pheromones. A ...more
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Netgalley!

The book asks us, sometimes repeatedly, to step outside of our preconceived notions. Fair enough. I'm not a member of an old-boy scientific network, so I have no vested interests besides learning for learning's sake. So what does Mr. Mancuso ask us to swallow?

Easily enough, it's just the idea that plants are intelligent.

No biggie, actually. I was convinced pretty early in the book, especially when we throw out prejudices such as the need for a "brain" or "eyes" or any of the
J.L.   Sutton
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Plant intelligence is fascinating! Even though we’ve been exposed to plants our entire lives, examining plant intelligence is like looking at something alien. While they may give us comfort or nourishment, to many of us, plants are simply there. They don’t do anything or solve problems or talk with us or to each other. But what if we’re missing something?

In Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola explore views of plant inte
Jun 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I came into this book quite supportive of the author's fundamental premise: that plants have lives as complex and deserving of respect as humans. I was intrigued by The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World - which is excellent - and wanted a more scientific overview of the research Peter Wohlleben cites in that book. This was not it.
Instead, this is a rant about how underestimated plants are, with constant silly sarcasm and petulance like:
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is not as kooky a book as it appears.

I really like one of the fundamental ways this is argued: we are intensely anthropocentric, and so we really define “intelligence” as “most like humans.” We might not say it in so many words, but that’s really the beans of it. That’s a pretty circular definition when applied to ourselves, isn’t it?

Thinking about this reminds me of Ender’s Game, a bit. The buggers. Because people perceived them as unthinking and unintelligent and, most importantly, unfe
I've never read a book that sounded more like it was written by an indignant plant. ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a quick and easy read, despite the fact that the book aims at scientific approach.
I found myself under an impression that i was reading a rough draft for student's thesis...
for a serious science book it often lacked scientific basis and felt too superficial. for a popular read - well, it is ok if you like plants or whatever.
it has some curious moments, but it doesn't rock the world.
Sep 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This is a manifesto rather than a textbook, by one of the chief scientists in plant behavior, who seeks to convince the reader that plants are indeed intelligent creatures rather than life forms barely above the minerals. The author and his research have taken a lot of criticism based on the assumed fact that plants cannot be conscious, so this is a subject he feels very strongly about. He points out that our evaluation of intelligence derives largely from observing motion, and because plants ar ...more
Robert Teeter
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plants
This small book by an Italian scientist and science journalist makes the case that plants have been underestimated and that they have a kind of “intelligence.” They convinced me — but only for some definitions of intelligence.

The book begins with a survey of ideas about plants in the past. The three major monotheistic religions mostly ignore plants, though Mancuso and Viola point out that Judaism forbids the gratuitous destruction of trees and has a holiday to celebrate their new year. Most phil
Ever stumble upon a compelling subject, read a book about it, desire to read more but find nothing else?

That's what happened to me when, years ago, I stumbled upon Daniel Chamovitz's What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses. It explained everything from plant senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, phototropism, geotropism etc.) to how plants communicate. Everything was done in a friendly scientific manner that brought plenty of proof and showed you how these plant mechanisms work. (For an ev
Am Y
Feb 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
Really repetitive. If we cut away the terrible repetition, this book would only be a quarter its current length. The author drones on again and again about how plants are wise but we don't want to believe it. Look, the reason why the majority of people are picking up this book is because we're already open to the concept of plant intelligence and want to find out more about it right? We don't need a lecture about how humans credit animals and all other living things as having "intelligence", but ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such passion for plants! Very thought provoking.
Alison Lilly
May 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Fascinating subject, lots of potential -- TERRIBLE writing. The overly-casual tone came off as sloppy, while the arguments were poorly structured and often lacked depth (as well as citations and specific examples of the research being discussed). The book reads like the rough draft transcription of a rambling conversation with an absent-minded professor. There are glimpses of a more complete and convincing argument in support of plant intelligence that could have been made, but instead the text ...more
Renee Roberts
Dec 25, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In short, this book is a major disappointment, and I recommend avoiding it. One star because I finished it.

In my own belief system, the soul is your life force, and I know animals have souls. So what about plants? They are living things, that we can propagate but not create. Do they have a soul of sorts? I've read about aspen forests that respond across their width to a threat on one edge; do other plants communicate in some way? I was hoping for a book that explored this kind of wondering from
Yulia Tell
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the concepts and questions that book poses including our definition of intellect, communication, etc. But it feels at times that the authors are too predictable in what and how they write, and keep reiterating the same idea in a few different ways.
Patrick Thrapp
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective. I enjoyed the deep dive into the subject.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book if you want to know more about plants intelligence.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Plants are aliens and you can’t convince me otherwise
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating read. Although it is non-fiction it was such fun and interesting to read.
Tom Roth
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Quite a disappointment. The language was not very scientific. I understand that it is a popular science book, but the writing in this book was too popular. For example, it literally said that plants CHOSE not to concentrate their organs in one place... In addition, it contained a lot of teleological descriptions of plant evolution.
The science that the book mentions is probably known to most biologists. At least, for me it was, and I do not specialize in plant biology. The only thing they add is
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it
We may resent those we depend on, because they don't make us feel completely free. In short we're so dependent on plants that we do everything we can not to think about them. Perhaps we don't wish to remember that our very survival is linked to the plant world, because that makes us feel weak, hardly masters of the universe! Of course this argument is partly intended to be provocative, but it may be useful in clarifying the balance of power between us and the plant world. p 39

Comestible (edible)
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
I should check my reading history to be sure, but this might be the first non-fiction book that I disliked this much.

For one thing, what was that first chapter? It got better after a while, but the first half was downright ridiculous. While the rest wasn't that bad, I kept feeling like the writer(s) was/were (how many writers does this book have, one or two? I can't be certain) just shoving their thoughts down my throat instead of giving me facts. Or let's say, just giving facts, as the book was
Dec 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Great ideas, interesting points of view but it is a "easy" book with answers that are really simple, with not so much explanations.
Green intelligence deserve a better book.
Joantine Berghuijs
This book encourages us to better appreciate plants among all forms of life than has been done so far. And not to regard them as "lower" or "less developed" organisms than animals. The authors show:
- That plants make up at least 99.5% of the living biomass, and therefore animals (including humans) only 0.5%.
- That we only know 5 to 10% of all plant species, and that 95% use them for our most important medicines.
- That because of their sedentary way of life, plants have developed totally differen
Grazyna Nawrocka
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I expected the book to tell me about somebody measuring waves from plants, which were exposed to various harm. No, it was not about it. The general conclusion from the work is that our knowledge of plants is very limited.

There are millions of roots. At the end of each root there is a part that recognizes beneficial or harmful elements in the environment (even ones that are a few meters away), and directs growth according to information it gets (analyzing data, making choices - definitely parts
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
A very interesting read. It has made me realize that I conflate "intelligence" with "consciousness". Although Mancuso suggests that plants can remember and learn things, he does not convincingly argue this case. This may be because the book is aimed at the general public and hence very technical details are not discussed. It also may be that, although Mancuso argues strongly against an animal-centric perspective on intelligence, I still have not sufficiently shed it.

The book does show that plant
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I am mixed about this book. I am already an environmentalist and an avid gardener, so I don’t need to be convinced about the importance of plans. I fully believe that we do ourselves and our world and incredibly dangerous to ourselves when we eradicate trees and green spaces. So in that way, I was already convinced. And I learned a lot of fascinating things about a variety of plants that I didn’t already know. That’s where the three stars come from. The missing stars are from applying the word i ...more
Nov 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, 2019, own-it
The main goal of this small booklet, barely 160 pages without notes, is to kick a popular audience out of its antropocentric definition of intelligence and to make people aware that 99% of life on Earth has more significance then being a mere part of the scenery.

Not only plant intelligence but also plant senses are explained.
As a starting point to learn more about plants this is a good read.

The Aliens Are Here (Plant Intelligence as a Model for Understanding Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
The stu
Apr 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a short and very clear, even pedagogical short book that showcases the argument that plants are intelligent creatures, and that means that they are able to collect information about their environments through various senses (many more than the human senses) and to process that information, make a decision and make a behavioral strategy.
"The most recent studies of the plant world have demonstrated that plants are sentient (and thus are endowed with senses), that they communicate (with ea
Aditya Chaudhary
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just loved how the author made the book really crisp and concise without compromising on the quantity or quality of the text. It's always nice to have an easy read non-fiction book that can be shelved under Biology.

It is a tough job making botany and associated sciences accessible for the layman, but this book does it really, really well. Zoology and the actions of the organisms studied in the discipline are somewhat more relatable, or rather - more noticeable and tangible. It is very easy to
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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 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 ...more

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“On the basis of decades of experiments, plants are starting to be regarded as beings capable of calculation and choice, learning and memory. A few years ago, Switzerland, amid much less rational polemics, became the first country in the world to affirm the rights of plants with a special declaration. But” 0 likes
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