Bingo 7: Elephant
This is going to be more of a thematic elephant and a major issue I had with key bits of the ideas; The Incredible Journey of Plants is about plant migration, and the various mechanisms plants have to get themselves places or grow in places you’d think would be impossible. The author blurb includes the following: “Stefano Mancuso is one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of plant neurobiology”. First of all, did anyone know this was a thing one could do? Since when do plants have brains? I can see how things like roots might count as nerves though; either way, this label makes it sound like the plants are going to turn out to be like people somehow, and that’s not too far off.
It could be the translation but plants are anthropomorphized in a way that makes it sound like things like how they uses seeds are intentionally developed by the plants to suit their situations; plants might certainly evolve to most effectively spread in their particular environment, but saying things like “”This is clearly an example of care for offspring” and “Parental care, neither more nor less than that found among superior animals, exists among plants and is even more widespread than is commonly believed.” This is in the context of explaining how forest plants and trees actually help saplings survive until they are big enough to do so on their own. The information here is interesting and it makes sense, but the way it’s presented makes it sound less plausible than it needs to.
The same problem comes up when discussing invasive species; the invasive plants are almost cheered on, and little thought is given to the real destructive impact they might be having on the native eco-system. In most cases, this is the conclusion: “the invasive plants of today are the native flora of tomorrow”. The examples seem kind of cherry picked, since especially in modern times with humans being responsible for a lot of the introductions of species to non-native places with unintended consequences; maybe basil didn’t destroy the eco-system in Italy or the water hyacinth in the American South, but that doesn’t mean similar situations haven’t resulted in actual loss of native plants or wildlife; that factor is totally missing. Elephant in the room much?
I did find interesting the though that, if you think of plants like coconut palms or avocadoes along with the notion that most plants want their seeds transported usually by being eaten, what kind of native critter could something like the 37 pound seed of lodoicea maldivica have been compatible with? An just to cement the elephant idea, real elephants do make an appearance, although brief; there is an African species of plant omophalocarpum elatum (umbilical fruit) which has such a strong outside shell, that only elephants are able to split them open; apparently they spear the fruit on a tusk and them split it by pressing it between the tree and ground.