With the traditional human bias for things that are somehow “like us,” we tend to favor demonstrations of intelligence that reflect our own intellectual assets: gorillas that have mastered sign language; dolphins that can communicate; tool-using apes; pig IQ tests. And we see those less-animate things (like plants) as, well, dumb. (There’s even a plant called the dieffenbachia that’s nicknamed “dumb cane,” though this turns out to be a comment on an unfortunate feature of the plant’s  sap, which if eaten, can cause temporary oral irritation and swelling, making it impossible to speak.  Literally, it strikes the eater “dumb.”)

Now, however, botanist Stefano Mancuso offers evidence that our understanding of plant intelligence may be in need of an update. His delightful TED talk skewers our very chauvinistic attitude toward plants role in our hierarchy of life:

Author and food advocate Michael Pollan, in his article in The New Yorker entitled entitled “The Intelligent Plant,” looks at the new field of plant neurobiology—and how a pseudoscientific publication in 1973 called The Secret Life of Plants both opened up the issue of plant intelligence and undermined the progress of genuine scientific research in this field of inquiry. In the article, Pollan visits Mancuso at the International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence in Italy, for a lively discussion of Mancuso’s ideas.

Guess it’s time we looked at plants in a new light.