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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