An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds [NOOK Book]

Overview

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. 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.

Beginning with the evolution of the first...

See more details below
An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
(Save 41%)$17.00 List Price

Overview

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. 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.

Beginning with the evolution of the first seed plant from fernlike ancestors more than 360 million years ago, Silvertown carries his tale through epochs and around the globe. 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.

"I have great faith in a seed," Thoreau wrote. "Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." Written with a scientist’s knowledge and a gardener’s delight, An Orchard Invisible offers those wonders in a package that will be irresistible to science buffs and green thumbs alike.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

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

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.”
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

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.”
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

Choice

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

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."
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

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."
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

Bloomsbury Review
"This far-ranging book is a recommended tonic for hungry gardening minds."
Best Books of 2009

— New Scientist
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."
The Barnes & Noble Review
If you're blessed with a patch of ground, or at least a windowsill where you can perch a pot or two, then 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, out from University of Chicago Press. Silvertown has written an accessible volume that nonetheless touches on everything from Ovid's Metaphorphoses to a corn fungus eaten as a vegetable in Mexico. Silvertown manages to keep the history, and the science, digestible. He has wisely structured the book so that a nonsequential perusal is as enjoyable as a straight read. Moreover, he has an ear for the elegant phrase. Explaining the vagaries of seed dispersion, he notes, "Dormancy is time travel" -- and cooking, he argues, is "evolutionary subversion." As with the best of any scientific history written for the lay audience, Orchard Invisible gives a sense of the inextricable connections between living things. Fruit, with its nutritive allure, helps explain the evolutionary development of three-color vision in humans. The practice of masting in oak trees, when bumper crops of acorns are followed by fallow years, contributed to the rise of Lyme disease. He quotes Thoreau: "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." An Orchard Invisible is a veritable wonder-cabinet. --Phoebe Connelly
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226757803
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,261,413
  • File size: 812 KB

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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 An Orchard Invisible: Seeds

2 First Forms Minute: Evolution

3 Even Beans Do It: Sex

4 Before the Seed: Pollination

5 According to Their Own Kinds: Inheritance

6 O Rose, Thou Art Sick!: Enemies

7 The Biggest Coconut I Ever See: Size

8 Ten Thousand Acorns: Number

9 Luscious Clusters of the Vine: Fruit

1 Winged Seeds: Dispersal

11 Circumstance Unknown: Fate

12 Fierce Energy: Germination

13 Sorrow’s Mysteries: Poisons

14 Ah, Sun-flower! Oil

15 John Barleycorn: Beer

16 Realm of Illusion: Coffee

17 Nourishment and Inspiration: Gastronomy

Scientific Names

Sources and Further Reading

Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Seeds as you've never known!

    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  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2010

    Looks like a great book, ebook is badly translated

    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  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)