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1. What is a plant?
2. Living on dry land
3. Making more plants
4. Moving around
5. Making sense of plant diversity
6. What have plants ever done for us?
7. Looking after the plants that support us
Posted July 12, 2012
Plants are, quite literary, everywhere. From the human perspective they are certainly the most recognizable and ubiquitous life form, and they have had an outsize impact on the Earth’s environment and natural history. Plants are essential for our nutrition, and the history of civilization can on one level be understood in terms of our increasing ability to cultivate and harness the plant-based biomass for our survival needs. Plants have also had, and continue to have, a very important role in medicine. This book looks at those aspects of plants, but even more importantly it tries to instill the appreciation for these incredible organisms in their own right.
This book covers some of the most important aspects of the plant biology – the nature and the structure of the plant cell, the evolution of the plant life, and the spread and adaptation of plants to various climates and environments. The most fascinating part of the book is the one that tries to explain the invasion of the land by plants. This is probably one of the most significant events in the natural history, and without it no other kind of land life would have been possible, and you and I would probably not be reading this book. It is quite incredible how many technical problems needed to be resolved for the plants to leave the aquatic environment and successfully adopt themselves for the life on the land. Many of these adaptations we take for granted, if we even think about them (such as the ability of plants to accumulate and store large quantities of water and prevent their desiccation.) This book does a marvelous job of describing these adaptations and putting them within the context of plant biology in general.
For me personally one of the biggest lessons from the reading of this book was the renewed appreciation of the field and “macro” biology. Over the past two decades there has been an increasing pressure in university departments and other scientific organization on the micro and molecular biology. Those are indeed very important and trendy topics, but there is much more to life, and plant life in particular, than what can be deduced from observing it under the microscope or in the test tube. We could be decoding every gene out there until we are blue in face, but if we don’t have a good appreciation for what macroscopic function for the given organism those genes serve, we’ll never be fully able to understand its meaning and purpose. Those macroscopic aspects of biology are still hugely important, and a short book like this one can go a long way of reminding us of their utility and beauty.
Whether you are a plant aficionado or someone who needs to brush up on their high school plant biology, this short book will provide you with a lot of interesting pieces of information and insights into what continues to make plants such an interesting subject of fascination and study.