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Planta Sapiens

UK Publisher: The Bridge Street Press
US Publisher: WW Norton

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 long 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 usually 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, recognise their relatives, assess risks and make decisions. They can even be put to sleep. Innovative new tools might allow us to actually see them do these things – from electrophysiological recordings to MRI and PET scans. 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 – one that will expand our understanding of our own minds.

From their rich subjective experiences 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.


‘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

‘Are plants conscious? Before you say no, read this fascinating new book’
— @michaelpollan via Twitter, author of This is Your Mind on Plants

‘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

‘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

‘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

‘An impressive exploration and dazzling insight into the lives of plants’ — Reaction Book Digest

‘An important book’ — Observer

Paco Calvo is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINTLab) in the University of Murcia, Spain,...
Lawrence is a writer, researcher and teacher focusing on monsters, animals and nature. Her undergraduate and masters studies were in...