21st Century Botany

-Selected Videos-

Why Plants Matter

Watch on TED.com

In 2007, noted author Michael Pollan, speaking at a TED conference, raised the question: "What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view."

Should you prefer to read the transcript of Pollan's talk, click here. This link will take you to the TED website where the transcript is published.

Are Plants Conscious?

In November 1880, Charles Darwin wrote one of the first scientific books on the movement and potential intelligence of plants [The Power of Movement in Plants], suggesting that plants are more than simple, sessile objects. Many have followed Darwin's footsteps and we now have Professor of Plant Science, University of Firenze, Stefano Mancuso who, on 3/12/15 published "Brilliant Green." It is a significant and short book - one we consider a must read. Mancuso also spoke just before the publication of his book at a TEDx event in Madrid, Spain. Here is his speech - the audio is a bit low, but listen carefully for Mancuso is destined to be amongst those who will change our perspective on plants. (19:16 min) [2015]

Do Trees Communicate?

Research over the past decade has shown that plants do indeed communicate with each other, but how exactly is this communication facilitated? Dr. Suzanne Simard shows that all trees within a forest ecosystem are interconnected; not only plants of the same species, but different species as well. The oldest and largest "mother trees" serve as the hubs of activity in the network. (4:40 min) [2010]

A unique viewpoint on energy . . .


Something plants might have come to understand a long, long time ago.

This video was recorded on July 8, 2003 in Aspen, Colorado as part of the Walter Orr Roberts Public Lecture Series. Recorded on July 8, 2003 in Aspen, Colorado... "According to Rice University professor Richard Smalley, energy is the number one challenge facing humanity today. In this engaging and thought-provoking lecture, Smalley explains that finding sustainable sources of energy for the entire world will not only alleviate a growing energy crisis, but will also assist in the solution to many of the world's other problems, such as water, terrorism, and health. Smalley presents his vision for our energy future, which focuses on the transition to renewable sources of energy by developing cost-effective technologies that capture solar, wind, and geothermal energy."

These are the sources plants have been using for millennia - listen to Dr. Smalley's talk and think "plants" while listening . . . maybe you'll be spurred to learn more about learning from plants, from learning more about "Why Plants Matter." Sadly, Dr. Smalley passed away about two years after this talk, before his ideas could become more widely accepted.

Should you prefer to read the transcript of Dr. Smalley's talk, click here. This link will take you to the TED website where the transcript is published.

Plantoid - A Robot That Grows Like Plant Roots

A new era of robotic exploration based upon plants has taken root (no pun intended!) at the Italian Institute of Technology (ITT). Dubbed Plantoid, the project seeks to mimic the action of plants robotically. Scientists see many important uses that may evolve from this innovative robot inspired by plant growth, including novel approaches to brain surgery and environmental testing. This is yet another technological advance inspired by plants which is helping us become more sustainable. (4:15 min) [Jul 2014]

Learn more by following this link: Plantoid Project

Author Michael Pollan's 2013 article in The New Yorker magazine, "The Intelligent Plant" is directly related to this topic and can be found below or in our Read Section.

Do Bean Plants Show Intelligence?

Michael Pollan narrates a video that complements his article "The Intelligent Plant" (found in the Read section). It shows bean plants searching for a metal pole to climb; even before the plants reach the pole, they seem to "know" where it is and try to wrap around it. One plant even seems to cede a pole to another plant that found it first. Some question whether these videos show "plant intelligence," but the footage is compelling, regardless. (3:11 min) [Dec 2013]

Artificial Leaves

A sustainable localized hydrogen energy source based on photosynthesis appears to be tantalizingly close. But consumers first need to become accustomed to what else is needed for it to work in order for it to succeed. (4 min) [March 2014]

For more information, read the corresponding article in the New York Times.

The Beauty of Mangrove Forests

Filmmaker Dennis Zaidi has put together a short film about the beauty and importance of mangrove forests. Shot in the Bahamas on north Bimini where the mangroves protect the island from hurricanes and provide the abundance of ocean life that local people depend on for tourism and food, it is a wonderful reflection of our mangrove forests in Florida Bay and the Keys. (2 min) [2013]

What Plants Talk About

A PBS Nature documentary exploring if and how plants behave like humans and animals. (53 min) [April 2013]

Plant Intelligence

An exploration of plant "intelligence," including plants' abilities to kill, move, sleep, and create memories. (52 min) [August 2014]

The Roots Of Plant Intelligence

"Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities ... But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence on their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence." (18 minutes) [October 2010]

The Secret World Of Plants

Check out some of the most unique and fascinating plants from all corners of the world, including strangler vines and corpse flowers. (55 min) [April 2012]

Biomimicry: Ideas From Nature

Nature already has the answers to many of our dilemmas; we can learn so much from the life that surrounds us. (24 min) [May 2007]


Partnership with plants is essential to a pleasant future for us here on Earth. It doesn't have to be either plants or us; indeed, we are finding innovative ways to coexist quite fruitfully. One example is "urban forests." Since most cities do not have much room for plants on the ground, there's nowhere left to go but up. Two high-rise buildings designed by architect Stefano Boeri are being constructed in Milan to serve as examples of what future cities could look like when people partner with plants for the greater good of our planet. (3 min) [October 2013]

The Botany Of Desire

Do we use plants or are we being used by them? (6 min) [August 2009]

Disappearing Bees

Learn about why bees are disappearing and why this is a big problem for plants and humans. (16 min) [September 2013]

The Happening

It's known that plants produce compounds harmful to creatures that would love to make a meal out of them and can increase production during an attack, simultaneously releasing airborne compounds that prompt the rest of its leaves and those of its neighbors to do the same. This 2008 movie (trailer above) explores a few of the many impacts of humans on the natural environment, including bee population decline, and what might happen if we become too much of a threat to the survival and well-being of the quiet and apparently innocuous creatures that inhabit the world around us. (2 min) [2008]