An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds

An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds

by Jonathan Silvertown
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown presents the oft-ignored seed with the natural history it deserves, one nearly as varied and surprising as the earth's flora itself. In a clear and engaging style, he delves into the science of seeds: How and why do some lie dormant for years on end? How

Overview

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown presents the oft-ignored seed with the natural history it deserves, one nearly as varied and surprising as the earth's flora itself. In a clear and engaging style, he delves into the science of seeds: How and why do some lie dormant for years on end? How did seeds evolve? The wide variety of uses that humans have developed for seeds of all sorts also receives a fascinating look, studded with examples, including foods, oils, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals. An able guide with an eye for the unusual, Silvertown is happy to take readers on unexpected-but always interesting-tangents, from Lyme disease to human color vision to the Salem witch trials. But he never lets us forget that the driving force behind the story of seeds-its theme, even-is evolution, with its irrepressible habit of stumbling upon new solutions to the challenges of life.

Editorial Reviews

Best Books of 2009 - New Scientist

“Focusing on seeds, Jonathan Silvertown has written a witty and charming introduction to the evolutionary wiles of the plant kingdom. . . . Do read this eye-opening book.”

Natural History

“Entertaining and charmingly illustrated. . . . For all its erudition, however, this is not an encyclopedia of botanical lore, nor a definitive text, but rather a little gem of science writing that deserves a spot on any natural history lover's bedside bookstand. . . . It is simply a delight to read.”

Times Higher Education

“A fabulous book. . . . Silvertown’s skills are in telling stories. Expect wonders, too. . . . In this book, Silvertown has produced a gem. . . . Read it as a gardener, scientist, food aficionado, historian, botanist, or naturalist, and you’ll not be disappointed.”

Bloomsbury Review

"This far-ranging book is a recommended tonic for hungry gardening minds."
Times Literary Supplement

"A subtle but engaging narrative of the evolutionary struggles of seeds. . . . Each of the first twelve chapters of this book tells a remarkable story, accompanied by well-chosen literary excerpts."

San Francisco Chronicle

"Anyone who has ever marveled at the idea of a tree exploding from something as tiny as a seed will exalt in the beauty of this book."
Peter H. Raven

“Seeds—familiar, mysterious, wonderful, endlessly fascinating, but rarely considered carefully. In this beautifully written popular exposition, Jonathan Silvertown brings seeds to life, illuminating their diversity, their amazing properties, their role in nature, evolution and fate over time, germination and fate in the life of an individual. To be read by all those interested in nature: they will gain deeper understanding from the lively words that trace these and many other aspects of these familiar structures.”

Peter Ashton

“An oak yields millions of acorns through its life, yet one survivor alone secures its line: natural selection acts most stringently on a seed. Here the author of Demons in Eden, with apt and at times hilarious quotation, explores how humanity has ingeniously exploited the extraordinary and complex devices by which plants, through their seeds, have surmounted competition. Beneath, we observe the relentless yet haphazard tide which is evolution.”

Australian - Leigh Dayton

"In a nutshell, I will never look at seeds the same way again, whether teeny poppy seeds or mammoth coconuts. . . . [A] delicious little book."
Seattle Times - Alan Moores

"An enthralling study of the ways seeds survive in the terrestrial world, and also sustain us humans. . . . [The] book will clearly remind its audience of a more vibrant, more sentient world than they might have imagined just outside their door."
Barnes and Noble Review - Phoebe Connelly

"Now is the season to plant a garden. And there's no better companion for your labors than Jonathan Silvertown's thorough yet eminently readable history of seeds, An Orchard Invisible. . . . A veritable wonder-chamber."
Boston Globe - Anthony Doerr
"I loved this little book. . . . An Orchard Invisible practically spills over with interesting insights. A chapter on the evolutionary rationale for fruit becomes a meditation on color perception. In one paragraph Silvertown will tell you about how plant poisons affect different populations of people, and in the next you're learning that Pythagoras didn't eat beans. A discussion of seed dispersal begins with a note about paper airplane design. His chapters on beer and coffee are particularly enthralling."—Boston Globe
Choice

"Silvertown is a witty botanist with a flair for seeds. . . . All botanists will enjoy this tribute to seeds."

Library Journal

Just as a seed contains the ability to create a whole plant, the evolution of seeds can serve as a microcosm for plant evolution. British ecology professor Silvertown (Demons in Eden: The Paradox of Plant Diversity) begins with a discussion of how seeds evolved to adapt plants to a fully terrestrial life when they emerged from the sea. In the process, he covers many relevant topics, including sexual and asexual reproduction, plant genetics, plant self-defense and seed dispersal, plant poisons, and seeds as food. The author also explains the coevolution of plants and animals, as in using and perceiving color. He covers some plant products humans use, such as sunflower oil, grain for beer, and coffee. Like Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire, Silvertown cites historical attitudes and quotations about particular plants. But he focuses primarily on the science of plant evolution rather than human history or anecdote. Endnotes suggest further reading. Silvertown writes both elegantly and clearly, and the book is as pleasurable to read as it is informative. For academic and public library botany and natural history collections.
—Marit S. Taylor

Boston Globe

"I loved this little book. . . . An Orchard Invisible practically spills over with interesting insights. A chapter on the evolutionary rationale for fruit becomes a meditation on color perception. In one paragraph Silvertown will tell you about how plant poisons affect different populations of people, and in the next you're learning that Pythagoras didn't eat beans. A discussion of seed dispersal begins with a note about paper airplane design. His chapters on beer and coffee are particularly enthralling."—Boston Globe

— Anthony Doerr

Australian
In a nutshell, I will never look at seeds the same way again, whether teeny poppy seeds or mammoth coconuts. . . . [A] delicious little book.

— Leigh Dayton

Barnes and Noble Review

"Now is the season to plant a garden. And there's no better companion for your labors than Jonathan Silvertown's thorough yet eminently readable history of seeds, An Orchard Invisible. . . . A veritable wonder-chamber."

— Phoebe Connelly

Seattle Times
An enthralling study of the ways seeds survive in the terrestrial world, and also sustain us humans. . . . [The] book will clearly remind its audience of a more vibrant, more sentient world than they might have imagined just outside their door.

— Alan Moores

Best Books of 2009

— New Scientist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226757742
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
09/15/2010
Edition description:
1
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Silvertown is professor of ecology at the Open University, Milton Keynes, and is the author of Demons in Eden and editor and co-author of 99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >