What is it like to be a plant?
It's not a question we might think to contemplate, even though many of us live surrounded by plants. Science has explored the wonderful ways in which plants communicate, behave and shape their environments: from chemical warfare to turning their predators to cannibalism. But they're nevertheless often just the backdrop to our frenetic animal lives. While plants may not have brains or move around as we do, cutting-edge science is revealing that they have astonishing inner worlds of an alternate kind to ours. They can plan ahead, learn and have rich subjective experiences. They can even be put to sleep. If you can look in the right way, a world full of drama unfurls.
In Planta Sapiens, Professor Paco Calvo offers a bold new perspective on plant biology and cognitive science. Using the latest scientific findings, Calvo challenges us to make an imaginative leap into a world that is so close and yet so alien. It is one that will expand our understanding of our own minds. From the emotions that plants experience to how they are inspiring novel ways of approaching the ecological crisis, Planta Sapiens is a dazzling exploration of the lives of plants and a call to approach how we think about the natural world in a new, maverick way.
Paco Calvo is a Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINTLab) at the University of Murcia, Spain, where his research is primarily in exploring and experimenting with the possibility of plant intelligence. In his research at MINTLab, he studies the ecological basis of plant intelligence by conducting experimental studies at the intersection of plant neurobiology and ecological psychology. He has given many talks on the topic of plant intelligence to academic and non-academic audiences around the world during the last decade.
Natalie Lawrence is a writer and illustrator with a PhD and MSc in the History and Philosophy of Science and an MCantab in Zoology from the University of Cambridge. Her work has appeared in BBC Wildlife, Aeon Magazine and Public Domain Review. She has been a TEDx speaker and appeared on BBC Woman's Hour.
"Calvo has a wonderfully infectious enthusiasm for his subject that makes this book, for all its complex science, a joy to read. He challenges us to set aside our 'zoocentric' perspective and to change our view of plants radically: from mechanisms akin to robots to complex organisms with a range of behaviours, responding to and anticipating their environments. In doing so, he has written a genuinely mind-expanding book"
– Book of the Day, Guardian
"Planta Sapiens is [a] bold and brave paean to our planet's ligneous, leafy kingdom. I mostly relished the intellectual interrogation, the maverick thinking, and add my voice to his call to think beyond our prejudices and our anthropocentric indoctrination"
– Daily Telegraph
"Deeply thought-provoking. Planta Sapiens is a mind-opening meditation about the inner lives of plants. Whether you come away convinced that plants are conscious, or not, this book will change – and enrich – the way you look at the green life all around you"
– Anil Seth, author of Being You
"A manifesto inviting us to think about plants and our attitudes to them in revolutionary ways"
– Helen Bynum, TLS
"Planta Sapiens presents 'fertile possibilities' to the public and in doing so it has put science on notice [...] We should be delighted with Professor Calvo's seeding of scientific curiosity for the hope that it offers"
– Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of To Speak for the Trees
"We are unimaginable without plants, yet surprisingly blind to their powers and behaviours. Planta Sapiens weaves science and history into an absorbing exploration of the many ways that plants rise to the challenge of living"
– Merlin Sheldrake, author of Entangled Life
"An impressive exploration and dazzling insight into the lives of plants"
– Reaction Book Digest
"Are plants conscious? Before you say no, read this fascinating new book"
– Michael Pollan via Twitter, author of This Is Your Mind on Plants
"An important book"
"Planta Sapiens offers an exciting and detailed look into research on plant intelligence and sets the standard for future studies in this important and forward-looking area"
– Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado
"[Planta Sapiens] takes readers on a journey into a seemingly alien world [...] Read this fascinating book and your view of nature will never be the same again"
– The Countryman Magazine
"A fascinating description of how plants interact with the environment in myriad ways [...] This book will make people think and help them to become more aware that plants have abilities that they may not know about. And, perhaps most significant, that it is important to truly see everything around us"
– Temple Grandin, New York Times