cover image The Incredible Journey of Plants

The Incredible Journey of Plants

Stefano Mancuso, trans. from the Italian by Gregory Conti. Other, $24.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-63542-991-6

Mancuso (The Revolutionary Genius of Plants), a plant neurobiologist and professor at the University of Florence, pays homage to the “legendary conquests” of plants in this elegant and charmingly illustrated survey. Relating some of the more remarkable feats performed by flora in their struggle to survive, Manusco describes Bahrain’s solitary Tree of Life, whose long tap root enables its survival in the desert, and travels to Hiroshima to visit the Hibakujumoku, or “trees that have suffered an atomic explosion.” The topics of human intervention and plant evolution are gracefully intertwined in discussions of coconut trees, date palms, and bristlecone pines, including one 4850-year-old Californian specimen. Especially fond of culinary topics, Mancuso bemoans the seedless avocado, which appeared in British supermarkets in 2017, and highlights the “multi-colored experience” of the pale South American tomato on its journey to becoming the “lustily red” center of Italian cuisine, and basil’s 2000-year old transformation, since Alexander the Great brought it to Europe from inner India, from purported cause of madness to cherished herb. Some ecologists, however, may balk at his embracing invasive plants as “the native flora of the future.” Nonetheless, naturalists and the culinary-inclined will cherish this collection of botanical vignettes. With illus. by Grisha Fischer. (Mar.)