By Jonathan Silvertown
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 via the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and variety of existence in the world. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown offers the oft-ignored seed with the average heritage it merits, one approximately as different and excellent because the earth's flowers itself.
Beginning with the evolution of the 1st seed plant from fernlike ancestors greater than 360 million years in the past, Silvertown incorporates his story via epochs and around the world. In a transparent and fascinating variety, he delves into the technological know-how 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 built for seeds of every kind additionally gets a desirable glance, studded with examples, together with meals, oils, perfumes, and prescription drugs. An capable consultant with a watch for the bizarre, Silvertown is excited to take readers on unexpected—but constantly interesting—tangents, from Lyme illness to human colour imaginative and prescient to the Salem witch trials. yet he by no means shall we us omit that the driver in the back of the tale of seeds—its topic, even—is evolution, with its irrepressible behavior of stumbling upon new strategies to the demanding situations of life.
"I have nice religion in a seed," Thoreau wrote. "Convince me that you've got a seed there, and i'm ready to anticipate wonders." Written with a scientist's wisdom and a gardener's satisfaction, An Orchard Invisible deals these wonders in a package deal that would be impossible to resist to technological know-how buffs and eco-friendly thumbs alike.
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Additional resources for An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds
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. In 1727 Henry Baker summed up this view admirably in verse: Each Seed includes a plant, that Plant, again, Has other Seeds, which other Plants contain: Those other Plants have All their Seeds, and Those More Plants again, successively, inclose.
That is a puzzle. The evolution of sex is a puzzle because, at least to the dispassionate observer, it seems such an ineﬃcient way to transmit your genes to future generations. Why share your oﬀspring with a mate, diluting your genetic legacy to each child by a half, when the alternative of reproducing asexually would mean that every child would be a Mini-Me? Sexual reproduction has been compared to a game of roulette in which the players throw away half their chips at every spin of the wheel. It works, but only if all players refrain from cheating.
Why didn’t ﬂowers, which more often than not contain both male and female organs, simply pollinate themselves? For want of an answer to this vital question, Sprengel’s book failed to excite the interest that its title clearly suggests he thought it deserved. Darwin, however, found the answer and thereby revealed the true signiﬁcance of Sprengel’s observations. Sprengel was posthumously celebrated for the revelations in his book. Though Darwin believed there must be an advantage to cross-fertilization in plants, he at ﬁrst thought that the obvious experiment of comparing the progeny of self-fertilization with plants raised from cross-fertilization was unlikely to show any diﬀerence between them, since he knew it rarely did so in the ﬁrst generation of crosses between animals.
An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown