With fun, fascinating vignettes, a renowned neurobiologist illuminates the interconnectedness of plant life and how we can learn from it to better plan our communities.
We animals account for a paltry 0.3% of the planet’s biomass while plants add up to 85%. And when, with just a little training, we are able to look at the world without seeing it solely as humanity’s playground, we cannot help but notice the ubiquity of plants. They are everywhere, and their stories are inevitably bound up with ours. As every tree in a forest is linked to all the others by an underground network of roots, uniting them to form a super organism, so plants constitute the nervous system, the plan that is the “greenprint” of our world. To ignore the existence of this plan is one of the most serious threats to the survival of our species.
In this latest book, the brilliant Stefano Mancuso is back to illuminate the greenprint of our world. He does it through unforgettable stories starring plants that combine an inimitable narrative style with remarkable scientific rigor, from the story of the red spruce that gave Stradivarius the wood for his fourteen violins, to the Kauri tree stump, kept alive for decades by the interconnected root system of nearby trees. From the mystery of the slipperiness of the banana skin to the plant that solved the “crime of the century,” the Lindbergh kidnapping, by way of wooden ladder rungs.
"Believing that we humans have by now placed ourselves above nature is one of the gravest dangers to the survival of our species," contends Mancuso (The Nation of Plants), a botanist at the University of Florence, in these insightful essays about the wondrous qualities of plants and humanity's relationship with them. In "Planting Cities," he explains that cities are hotter than rural areas because their dark surfaces absorb solar radiation, and suggests that "covering our cities with plants" could insulate them from the effects of global warming. Humans, Mancuso posits in "Planting the Underground," would do well to imitate the "mutual aid" exemplified by certain trees' natural root grafting abilities, in which a healthy tree's roots can connect with the roots of a stump and provide the stump with the water it needs to survive. The author is at turns animated and contemplative, best illustrated in "Planting Knowledge" as he recounts his efforts to measure the slipperiness of a banana peel while meditating on how there will always be more to learn. The reflections are as entertaining as they are educational and showcase the overlooked complexity of plant life. Shot through with wisdom and joy, this will captivate readers. Illus.