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Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence
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Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  899 ratings  ·  123 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 3.83  · 
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 ·  899 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Pouting Always
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"
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
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
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 yea
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
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such passion for plants! Very thought provoking.
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: "how could th
Aug 21, 2018 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've never read a book that sounded more like it was written by an indignant plant.
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.
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
Celeste Porche
A fascinating but quick read that touches generally on many aspects of cultural and scientific history in a way that most people who have completed a high school biology class would easily understand.

The author compares swarm or collective intelligence with individual intelligence (ant colony vs human mind, internet vs super computer) and explains that though plants do not have a single organ dedicated to thought (a brain) their modular anatomical structure allows for the transfer of informatio
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
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 develope
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 sho
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
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
"Brilliant Green" is mercifully clear and brief, just 160 pages of well-structured, accessible, and generously-spaced main text. Unlike the thoughtful register of "Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell", the entire text takes the form of a friendly argument. That argument of the book is made repetitively and could grate unless you read the book at a very fast pace. Fortunately, the book is easy to read that allows one to breeze through.

The book's argument is that our perception le
Martin Lowery
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
A quick read, the authors discuss plants and their unknown features such as senses and intelligence.

Sadly, for a short book, it's made even shorter by the fact that pages of the book are made up of topics irrelevant to that of plants. In the chapter of plant intelligence, which is 20 pages long, the authors spend half the chapter discussing human intelligence and how its measured, and then spend five pages talking about the history of perceived plant intelligence, only to conclude in the remain
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
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice, relatively short book. It seems to be a pop science book written for a general audience, so the authors spent a bit too much time in a defensive position. I needed much less convincing that plants are intelligent at the outset, but I recognize the importance of the point made. I was already familiar with many of the examples but definitely learned lots of new stuff. One point that I thought was made a bit too casually was the suggestion that we could genetically modify plants to transfer ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
If not for anything else, this book is worth reading just for delightful plant facts strewn throughout. Here’s some :
1/ 99.5% of all biomass on Earth belongs to plants
2/ Most of the world’s calories come from six plants - soy, potato, rice, wheat, corn & sugarcane
3/ Nepenthes, a plant that eats lizards and mice, deposits skeletons at the bottom of its pit 💀
4/ Mimosa pudica, the lovely touch-me-not, “learns” which touch is harmful and which is not, and adapts accordingly
This was tricky to rate. Definitely interesting and a subject I'd like to read more on but it felt as though it didn't go into quite enough detail on a lot of the examples it cited whilst repeating much of the justification for discussing plant intelligence multiple times. The book does have a substantial notes section at the end so that if you do want to read around the subject afterwards, you have a solid starting point.
I'd still recommend it as a place to start and a way to get interest
John Kaufmann
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent little book (160 pp) about how plants exhibit "intelligence." He covers each of the five senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell), and a few others that plants have that humans don't have. In addition to providing numerous specific examples of how each of these senses in plants qualify as "intelligent," the author also provides a broader Darwinian context. Very similar in substance and quality to What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses.
Kristin Eoff
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating and thought-provoking book! I didn't even realize until the end that it had been translated from the original Italian, because it reads so naturally in English. It even has some helpful black-and-white line drawings, and a bonus is the detailed bibliography at the end so interested readers can easily look up more information on the most intriguing aspects of this book. I didn't know plants had so much in common with animals and humans! I will try to be more observant in the fu ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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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
“Most people who bother to think about plants at all tend to regard them as the mute, immobile furniture of our world—useful enough, and generally attractive, but obviously second-class citizens in the republic of life on Earth.” 0 likes
“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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