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New ScientistA great book that will leave you looking at leaves and petals with renewed admiration.
— Adrian Barnett
Though he didn’t realize it at the time, David Lee began this book twenty-five years ago as he was hiking in the mountains outside Kuala Lumpur. Surrounded by the wonders of the jungle, Lee found his attention drawn to one plant in particular, a species of fern whose electric blue leaves shimmered amidst the surrounding green. The evolutionary wonder of the fern’s extravagant beauty filled Lee with awe—and set him on a career-long journey to understand everything about plant colors.
Nature’s Palette is the fully ripened fruit of that journey—a highly illustrated, immensely entertaining exploration of the science of plant color. Beginning with potent reminders of how deeply interwoven plant colors are with human life and culture—from the shifting hues that told early humans when fruits and vegetables were edible to the indigo dyes that signified royalty for later generations—Lee moves easily through details of pigments, the evolution of color perception, the nature of light, and dozens of other topics. Through a narrative peppered with anecdotes of a life spent pursuing botanical knowledge around the world, he reveals the profound ways that efforts to understand and exploit plant color have influenced every sphere of human life, from organic chemistry to Renaissance painting to the highly lucrative orchid trade.
Lavishly illustrated and packed with remarkable details sure to delight gardeners and naturalists alike, Nature’s Palette will enchant anyone who’s ever wondered about red roses and blue violets—or green thumbs.
— Adrian Barnett
“What E. O. Wilson did for Biophilia, David Lee does for ‘Chlorophilia’ and indeed the entirety of how we, a visual species, interact with the vegetative world around us. Lee does a masterful job in explaining the science underlying the colors produced by plants, and in doing so shows how they both illuminate and enrich our lives. No trip to the grocery store, the florist, or even out your front door will be the same after reading this book.”--N. Michele Holbrook, Harvard University
“David Lee’s favorite plants, and the ones he has spent a lifetime investigating, are the jewel-like iridescent blue plants of the deeply shaded jungle understory, and these have stimulated him to embark on a wide-ranging book on the colors of nature. Lee moves with ease from basic science—the chemistry of pigment molecules, the physics of structural colors, the adaptive importance of plant colors for themselves and the animals that pollinate and disperse them—to the role that plant colors play in human life, from the dyeing of cloth to our art, literature, and languages, and the psychological power of certain colors. Nature’s Palette is a spacious book, full of wonder and wonders, in which the scientific and the personal, the poetic and the historical, come together in the most delightful way—it is a pure pleasure to read.”
— Philip Ball
— Timothy Walker
— Alan Cane
— Sandra Knapp
— Michael Prater
— Adrian A. Barnett
— Neil A. Harriman
One Coloring Our Bodies with Plants
Two Light, Vision, and Color
Three Nature's Palette
Four The Canvas
Eight Fruits and Seeds
Nine Stems and Roots
Ten Iridescent Plants
Eleven Why Leaves Turn Red
Appendix A: Plant Pigments and Related Molecules
Appendix B: Separating Plant Pigments by Paper Chromatography