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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, ...
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.
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
"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
"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."
— Alan Moores
— Leigh Dayton
"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
1 An Orchard Invisible Seeds 3
2 First Forms Minute Evolution 7
3 Even Beans Do It Sex 21
4 Before the Seed Pollination 39
5 According to Their Own Kinds Inheritance 51
6 O Rose, Thou Art Sick! Enemies 61
7 The Biggest Coconut I Ever See Size 70
8 Ten Thousand Acorns Number 77
9 Luscious Clusters of the Vine Fruit 87
10 Winged Seeds Dispersal 101
11 Circumstance Unknown Fate 108
12 Fierce Energy Germination 118
13 Sorrow's Mysteries Poisons 125
14 Ah, Sun-flower! Oil 135
15 John Barleycorn Beer 145
16 Realm of Illusion Coffee 155
17 Nourishment & Inspiration Gastronomy 165
Scientific Names 177
Sources and Further Reading 181
Posted March 30, 2012
This is an excellent fun, accessible and interesting book on seeds. It is more than some interesting natural history, though it is that along with the evolutionary and biological importance of seeds. Silvertown, a noted botanist, weaves in many interesting historical and cultural bits which make this book a pleasure to read and share no matter who you are. Highly recommended, especially if you love coffee, or chocolate, or sunflower seeds...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 2, 2010
Reading the sample, I'd like to buy this book. It sounds very interesting. However, there are numerous translation errors in the ebook: words run together, the first or last letter of a word being tacked onto the preceding or following word, sentences mangled. I'm not inclined to pay for a book that has not been properly converted to epub format.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.