The idea that plants have a mind of their own has been a prominent feature of some Indigenous narratives, literary works, and philosophical discourses. Recent scientific research in the field of plant cognition similarly highlights the capacity of botanical life to discern between options and learn from prior experiences or, in other words, to think. The Mind of Plants offers an accessible account of the idea of “the plant mind” by bringing together short essays and poems on plants and their interactions with humans.
The texts interpret the theme broadly-from the ways that humans mind and unmind plants to the mindedness or unmindedness of plants themselves. Authors from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences have written about their personal connections to particular plants, reflecting upon their research on plant studies in a style amenable to a broad audience. Each of the authors has selected a plant that functions as a guiding thread to their interpretation of “the mind of plants.” From the ubiquitous rose to the ugly hornwort, from the Amazonian ayahuasca to tobacco, the texts reflect the multifarious interactions between humans and flora.
These personal narratives, filled with anecdotes, experiences, and musings, offer cutting-edge insights into the different meanings and dimensions of “the mind of plants.” Contributors to The Mind of Plants are key figures in the fields of ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, plant behavior and cognition, and critical plant studies. Included are simple, thumbnail-style, black-and-white illustrations of the plants to enhance readers’ appreciation of the narratives.
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"This is the book I have been waiting for! For far too long a deep ignorance has prevailed that plants are just inanimate objects. Now for the benefit of the whole of humanity The Mind of Plants dispels the darkness of that ignorance. The book is a bouquet of beautiful essays which delighted me with the knowledge that the plants are living organisms and we need to celebrate their sublime qualities with awe and gratitude. It is an enlightening book! The Mind of Plants integrates the science of ecology and biology with the pleasure of poetry and literature. It should become an essential part of the curriculum of all schools and universities. And of course it should be read by all those who wish to learn about the intricate mystery of plant life." - Satish Kumar, Founder of Schumacher College, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist "This marvellous and hugely important book brings us a vitally important gift: the gift of melting - of melting our human consciousness into the varied and multifarious intelligences that live and thrive in the world of plants. Speaking to us through their human interlocutors, the plants in this book urge us to heal the disastrous split between ourselves and the world of nature so tragically instigated by Descartes and his many followers and successors. May the rich teachings from our plant kith and kin in this splendid book reawaken us to the wondrous sentience of our living planet, now brought so close to disaster by the greed and blindness of the modern world." - Dr. Stephan Harding, Deep Ecology Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Holistic Science, Schumacher College. Author of Animate Earth and Gaia Alchemy "For millennia, we have taken the vegetable world for granted, deeming it inferior and devoid of inner purpose or complexity. This beautifully-curated volume combines research, cross-cultural narratives and personal experiences to unveil a profoundly different plant world, inviting us to rethink what we mean by intelligence and to reevaluate our place in Nature with open minds and renewed humility." - Marcelo Gleiser, 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate, author of The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected "I hope this important, wide-ranging, and easy-to-read book enjoys a broad audience including researchers and people who simply love being in the presence of all types of florae. I'm sure that the more we study plants the more we'll see that the real question at hand is not if they have their own sorts of minds, but rather why plant minds have evolved and how they're used. "Animal-centric" views about "minds" need to be broadened to include all living beings on our magnificent planet. Science has already shown that merely visiting plants can alter herbivory, including seed production and competition-the Herbivory Uncertainty Principle-so let's keep the door open about the inner lives of the diverse florae that bless Earth. As someone who has studied nonhuman animal minds for decades, I've seen many changes in the narrow and dismissive views that once questioned whether nonhumans really had minds, and I'm sure that we'll see a similar broadening of attitudes about plant minds as relevant studies are performed and people shelve the idea that the notion of plant minds is absurd and anti-scientific." - Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and A Dog's World: Imaging the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans "This eclectic 21st century Herbal will take you on a joyous ride of discovery of connection between plants and people. Through the medium of stories, poetry or science the complexity and beauty of plant intelligence is reflected. This surprising, illuminating and diverse collection is a much needed antidote to 'plant blindness' so common in our societies, encouraging us to see, hear and feel the green life all around us. Throughout the book there are beautiful illustrations that bring the text alive". -Anya Ermakova, PhD is a member of Chacruna Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants "I absorbed Mind of Plants whole in just two days. With impressive breadth this book introduced me to plants around the world and to their place in different cultures. From metaphorically setting down roots to the literal thoughts engendered by electrical pulses, each chapter elegantly introduced different concepts and made me reflect as much on myself as on the natural world." - Alice Little, Writer in Residence, Wytham Woods, University of Oxford, alicelittle.co.uk "Forget those weary stereotypes of hippies intoning to their geraniums. In this elegant, necessary and provocative collection, a new generation of philosophers, scholars, scientists, writers, artists and poets examine their relationship with plants, not as materials or useful things or means to our ends, but as kin. They ask us to put our preconceptions to one side and to receive plants as they actually are, all the while grappling with those most perplexing and tabooed philosophical questions: what is it to be a plant? and even, can plants actually think? Their answers will delight, enchant, challenge, and doubtless infuriate, but to be asking such questions at this moment of anthropogenic ecological crisis could not be more timely. They may yet change the way you view plants forever." - Andy Letcher D.Phil (Oxon.), Ph.D is a Senior Lecturer at Schumacher College, UK, where he is Programme Lead for the MA Engaged Ecology. He is the author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom "Ryan, Viera, and Gagliano have cultivated an exemplary herbarium of stories, poems, and deeply personal essays centered around plants themselves. Each contribution begins from the uncommon assumption of intelligence in plants and presents novel ways of thinking about and with each species. Incorporating critical insights on plants from the sciences and humanities, The Mind of Plants is sensuous, grounded, and accessible. This book is vital for anyone who has ever felt a connection with a plant." - Laura Pustarfi, Ph.D., Plant Studies Scholar "The Mind of Plants is a portal. The diverse, intimate layers of human and vegetal voices and experiences move us beyond the confines of our homo sapiens centrality to absorb, open to, and be opened by the ways trees and plants know, initiate, navigate, socialize, shape-mind- their lives and communities. Each plant encounter in these pages spins our modern conditioning a little, and a little more-softly, sensually, profoundly shifting what is continually re-enforced as the only paradigm through which to be with and know the green world: as inert resource solely for human consumption and well-being. Emerging from the portal, changed and humbled, we are held in a deepened sense of awe, interconnection, love, respect, perspective, and empathy for the minded aliveness and engagements of plants in their own right. The Mind of Plants is a portal of vital and overdue importance." - Dr. Sarah Abbott, interdisciplinary researcher of sentient relations of trees, and associate professor at the University of Regina "The Mind of Plants is an enchanting collection of short reflections on the privileged encounter with plants as cognitive, mindful beings. Poetic, essayistic, and very personal, this book is full of insightful thoughts which are filling an important lacuna in human understanding that science cannot explain: The mind emerges from the encounter with a myriad of other beings. The Indigenous Amazonian people have long known and experienced their rainforest as a field of mind. To plug into the intelligence of this forest is a practice, that once discovered, has kept the author's strong ties to these territories alive over decades." - Ursula Biemann, artist, curator, and theorist "From apples to Ayahuasca, from spinach to Xiang-Si, this wide-ranging collection serves up forty essays and fourteen poems that, each in its own singular voice, collectively meditate on how and why plants scratch, sting, enchant, nourish, illuminate, intoxicate and enslave us. The contributors-including biologists, ethnobotanists, chemists, physicians, anthropologists, philosophers, writers and artists from diverse cultural backgrounds-enliven the emerging field of study on plant intelligence by interweaving poetry, personal stories, scientific findings and spiritual insights, sometimes within the same entry. Authors Jeremy Narby and Prudence Gibson invite us to "vegetalize" our thinking as well as our writing, while Alex Gearin warns of the dangers of projecting human intentions onto the radical otherness that constitutes the plant mind, lest we "reckless sorcerers of the Anthropocene" leave the world a sadder place. Equal parts herbal manual and alchemical spell book, this beautifully illustrated volume will appeal to scientists, shamans and poets alike." - Glenn H. Shepard Jr., Ph.D., Ethnobotanist and Museum Curator at the Goeldi Museum, Brazil "How can you not love a botanical treasure trove that begins with apples and ayahuasca, ends with yoco and yopo and features inspired writing from luminaries like Robin Kimmerer, Luis Eduardo Luna, Dennis McKenna and Jeremy Narby? A feast for the heart, mind, and ethnobotanical soul!" - Mark Plotkin, PhD, Ethnobotanist and Host of the Plants of the Gods Podcast "Crafted by more than fifty wise spirits, The Mind of Plants offers us a key to the planetary garden." - Zheng Bo, PhD, Filmmaker and artist