An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown PDF

By Jonathan Silvertown

ISBN-10: 0226757803

ISBN-13: 9780226757803

The tale of seeds, in a nutshell, is a story of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by way of the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and variety of existence on the earth. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown offers the oft-ignored seed with the average heritage it merits, one approximately as diverse and outstanding because the earth's plant life itself.

Beginning with the evolution of the 1st seed plant from fernlike ancestors greater than 360 million years in the past, Silvertown contains his story via epochs and worldwide. In a transparent and fascinating kind, he delves into the technology of seeds: How and why do a little lie dormant for years on finish? How did seeds evolve? the big variety of makes use of that people have constructed for seeds of every type additionally gets a desirable glance, studded with examples, together with meals, oils, perfumes, and prescribed drugs. An capable consultant with an eye fixed for the bizarre, Silvertown is excited to take readers on unexpected—but consistently interesting—tangents, from Lyme illness to human colour imaginative and prescient to the Salem witch trials. yet he by no means shall we us disregard that the motive force in the back of the tale of seeds—its topic, even—is evolution, with its irrepressible behavior of stumbling upon new suggestions to the demanding situations of life.

"I have nice religion in a seed," Thoreau wrote. "Convince me that you've a seed there, and i'm ready to count on wonders." Written with a scientist's wisdom and a gardener's pride, An Orchard Invisible bargains these wonders in a package deal that might be impossible to resist to technology buffs and eco-friendly thumbs alike.

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Spermism had a brief life (just as sperm do), but its botanical equivalent, pollenism, endured a while longer. One proponent was Sir John Hill, an extraordinary character of a kind that probably only eighteenth-century London could have produced: herbalist, physician, prolific journalist, scientific translator, playwright, astronomer, geologist, microscopist, botanist, and actor. He was even thought to be the pseudonymous author of a recipe book, Mrs. Glasse’s Cookery. Hill’s enormous industry was undermined by a seeming determination to quarrel with anyone and everyone of note, especially his erstwhile friends.

The realization that plants do reproduce sexually, and that this is what flowers are all about, is not as old as one might imagine. Greek and Roman philosophers were at best coy on the subject of plant sex, if not plain ignorant. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote of male and female date palms, but if he believed that plants in general were sexual, he did not allude to this in his eighteen volumes of botanical writing. The Roman poet Ovid published a sex manual in verse, The Art of Love (Ars amatoria) that had him banished by the Emperor Augustus in a cleanup of Rome.

Ironically, the Prince of Botanists was more successful with animals in this respect, correctly recognizing that whales and bats are mammals and that humans are primates. Though the fact of plant sexuality had been established by the middle of the eighteenth century, there was still debate about the respective roles of egg and sperm in the production of the embryo. For a while there were two contending camps on the issue. On the one hand were the ovists, who believed that sperm merely stimulated the egg to bring forth its embryo without making any substantial hereditary contribution to it.

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An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown

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