According to John Donne, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”. The exact same sentence rings true if we replace “man” with “plant”. In fact, ever since plants colonized the earth, about 470 million years ago, they have performed functions that are the basis of life on our planet. Far from having done it on their own, they have succeeded thanks to a network of interactions established not only with their peers, but also with invisible microbial communities made up of millions of individuals who inhabit the surrounding soil and roots. These relationships are both concealed and precious, for both human health and the natural environment, which are increasingly threatened primarily by climate change. The author accompanies readers along seven ideal expeditions: afterwards it will no longer be possible to take a walk in the woods without being captivated by their ancestry.
Paola Bonfante is professor emeritus of Botany at the University of Turin and a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and the Académie d’Agricolture de France.
Caterina Visco is a journalist and writer of popular science.