In this richly illustrated volume, a leading neurobiologist presents fascinating stories of plant migration that reveal unexpected connections between nature and culture.
When we talk about migrations, we should study plants to understand that these phenomena are unstoppable. In the many different ways plants move, we can see the incessant action and drive to spread life that has led plants to colonize every possible environment on earth. The history of this relentless expansion is unknown to most people, but we can begin our exploration with these surprising tales, engagingly told by Stefano Mancuso.
Generation after generation, using spores, seeds, or any other means available, plants move in the world to conquer new spaces. They release huge quantities of spores that can be transported thousands of miles. The number and variety of tools through which seeds spread is astonishing: we have seeds dispersed by wind, by rolling on the ground, by animals, by water, or by a simple fall from the plant, which can happen thanks to propulsive mechanisms, the swaying of the mother plant, the drying of the fruit, and much more.
In this accessible, absorbing overview, Mancuso considers how plants convince animals to transport them around the world, and how some plants need particular animals to spread; how they have been able to grow in places so inaccessible and inhospitable as to remain isolated; how they resisted the atomic bomb and the Chernobyl disaster; how they are able to bring life to sterile islands; how they can travel through the ages, as they sail around the world.
Stefano Mancuso is one of the world's leading authorities in the field of plant neurobiology, which explores signalling and communication at all levels of biological organization. He is a professor at the University of Florence and has published more than 250 scientific papers in international journals. His previous books include The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior and Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence.
Gregory Conti teaches English at the University of Perugia and is a regular contributor to Raritan. His recent translations include Seven Poems by Elisa Biagini, The Fault Line by Paolo Rumiz, and A Soldier on the Southern Front by Emilio Lussu.
"Mancuso is a genial narrator, who tells the story of plants' journeys through well-crafted stories that are embellished by the sweetly decorative watercolors of Grisha Fischer. He effortlessly interweaves science with history, philosophy, and humor and introduces fascinating characters, very much including the plants themselves, which take on human, even heroic, traits."
– Wall Street Journal
"A gripping series of evolutionary history vignettes about plants that have coexisted either in spite of or due to human intervention [...] a new perspective on that hazy term, 'nature.'"
"An absorbing overview of botanical history and why its understanding is vital to the earth's future."
"Anecdotes enliven Mancuso's quirky little global history, which argues that plants 'are more sensitive than animals.'"
"[An] elegant and charmingly illustrated survey [...] The topics of human intervention and plant evolution are gracefully intertwined in discussions of coconut trees, date palms, and bristlecone pines [...] naturalists and the culinary-inclined will cherish this collection of botanical vignettes."
– Publishers Weekly
"Illuminating and surprisingly lively [...] [Mancuso] smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research [...] An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults."
– Kirkus Reviews
"A love letter from a botanist to the plants he studies, written in a breezy and poetic style. Reading this book will give you a whole new appreciation for plants and their many remarkable lifestyles and adaptations. You'll never look at a blade of grass or a forest of trees the same way again!"
– Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh paleontologist and New York Times/ Sunday Times bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs