The Mind of Plants

The Mind of Plants brings together a collection of short essays, narratives and poetry on plants and their interaction with humans. Authors from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences write about their connection to a particular plant, reflecting upon their research on plant studies in a style accessible for a general audience.

The Project

Contributors selected one plant that functions as a guiding thread to their interpretation of the mind of plants. Texts are organized alphabetically by plant, evoking old herbaria, all the while moving away from their focus on taxonomy. The editors’ goal is to pay tribute to this tradition but subvert its reductionist approach to plant life.

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The Mind of Plants

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 also highlights the capacity of botanical life to discern between options and learn from prior experiences or, in other words, to think. This collection includes texts that interpret the mind of plants broadly—from the ways that humans mind and unmind plants to the mindedness or unmindedness of plants themselves. 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. Personal reflections, poems, essays and narratives offer cutting edge insights into the different meanings of the mind of plants.

Editors

John Charles Ryan

John Charles Ryan is Adjunct Associate Professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia. His interests include critical plant studies, Aboriginal Australian poetry, and Southeast Asian ecocriticism. He is the co-editor of Australian Wetland Cultures: Swamps and the Environmental Crisis (2019, Lexington Books) and author of Plants in Contemporary Poetry: Ecocriticism and the Botanical Imagination (2018, Routledge). In 2020, he is Writer-in-Residence at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Virginia (www.osgf.org) and Visiting Researcher at University of 17 Agustus 1945 (UNTAG) in Surabaya, Indonesia.  

Patricia Vieira

Patrícia Vieira is Senior Researcher at the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, at Georgetown University. Her fields of expertise are Latin American and Iberian Literatures and Cultures, Portuguese and Brazilian Cinema, Utopian Studies and the Environmental Humanities. Her most recent monograph is States of Grace: Utopia in Brazilian Culture (SUNY UP, 20018) and her most recent co-edited book is Portuguese Literature and the Environment (Lexington, 2019). She has published numerous articles in her fields of expertize, as well as op-eds in The New York Times, the LA Review of Books and The European, among others.  For more information visit: www.patriciavieira.net

Monica Gagliano

Monica Gagliano is a Research Associate Professor in evolutionary ecology. A former fellow of the Australian Research Council, she is Research Associate Professor (adjunct) at the University of Western Australia and a Member of the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of Sydney. She is currently based at Southern Cross University where she directs the BI Lab–Biological Intelligence Lab as part of the Diverse Intelligences Initiative of the Templeton World Charity Foundation. Her work has extended the concept of cognition (including perception, learning processes, memory) in plants. Her latest book is Thus Spoke the Plant (North Atlantic Books, 2018). For more information: www.monicagagliano.com