Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chasing the Rose

From Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, I learned of a new and very readable book about a "found" rose and I put it on my birthday list to purchase and read.  Of the three books I purchased as a self-gift for my now past birthday, I chose to read Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside first.  Chasing the Rose is by Andrea di Robilant and it has kept me captivated for several nights this week.

The book is a journey of the search for the identity of a rose, known as  'Rosa Moceniga', that was found on the author's ancestral home of Alvisopoli, Italy (a city named for its founder, the author's great-great-great-great grandfather, Alvise Mocenigo).  It's a journey that covers vast spaces, as di Robilant searches for clues about its origins in several countries and gardens, and also covers vast time periods, for it is, in part, a historical essay on his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia's relationship with the Empress Josephine of Malmaison and a history of the "China" roses. 

The story is quite entertaining regarding the rose and, because of the historical info, educational at the same time.  It was also eye-opening for me, because the author interacts several times with Professor Stefano Mancuso of the University of Florence.  Professor Mancuso is one of the pioneers in the field of plant neurobiology, a field that views plants less as insensate organisms battered at the whims of man and nature, but as information-processing organisms with communication between all parts of the plant and responses to the environment.  He even gave an interesting TED lecture in 2010.  There is even a Society for Plant Neurobiology, which you may belong to for the annual membership of $60, and a Journal of Plant Signaling and Behavior that publishes manuscripts about plant responses to environmental stimuli.

Heck, I thought we'd left all that behind in the 1970's after the publication of SuperNature, a bestseller about ESP and plants and other mystic crap that captivated me in my teens.  It has since been discredited, but the book made a wave among the wannabe hippies with its reports that a razor blade left in the pyramid of Cheops will magically become sharp again and that plants can sense the death of nearby snails, among other made up or poorly investigated crap.  Now here the idea is back, complete with all the controversy.  Wikipedia has even stepped into the fray, moving an entry on "plant neurobiology" in 2012 into an entry regarding "plant perception."  

I don't know where you stand on the subject, and keep in mind that there have been no discoveries of neurons or a brain in plants, but in the future, you might be a little nervous about missing a watering of your potted plants.  You never know when they might retaliate by psychically strangulating us in our sleep.


  1. Last week, I attended a reading and book signing with the author of Chasing the Rose. It was a very delightful evening! They ran out of books, so I had to order mine. Ordered three ... one for me and two as gifts. I can't wait to read it. (I only skimmed your post, I will admit, because I didn't want to accidentally find out how the story ends, if you said anything about it.)

    1. No spoilers in the blog about Chasing the Rose. But I'm jealous of the signed copy you'll have! Hope you enjoy it. My next read is either "50 Garden Tools" or the new book by Des Kennedy.


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