In Praise Of Plants

In Praise Of Plants


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Francis Halle examines the human---and even scientific---bias toward animals at the expense of our understanding of plants. Readers will find their ideas about plants fundamentally altered and their appreciation immeasurably enhanced. This is a black-and-white edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604692624
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/12/2011
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Francis Halle is a professor of botany at the University of Montpellier, France. A previous book, Tropical Trees and Forests: An Architectural Analysis (1978), coauthored with Roelof Oldeman and Barry Tomlinson, is one of the most frequently consulted in tropical botany. Professor Halle is a pioneer in exploring life in the treetops of tropical forests, using a blimp-borne inflatable raft that rests on the tops of the trees of the canopy.

Read an Excerpt

Replacing elephant ivory with vegetable ivory has been presented as an environmental victory. However, who is concerned about the bleak future for the palms that provide the vegetable ivory, the strange Phytelephas of the understory in the western Amazonian rain forest, whose existence is threatened by the destruction of the last primary forests at the foot of the Andes? Would we prefer to see palms vanish rather than elephants?

At the supermarket I found a shampoo , 'Pure, natural, with essential oils of sage and juniper berry, chamomile, orange and wood rose.' The label stated nicely, 'This product was not tested on animals.' Why do we have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but not one for prevention of cruelty to plants? Why do we have leagues against vivisection but do not protect plane trees against pollarding by arborists?

Let us accept the evidence. Humans have a passion for animals even if they come to prefer them on the plate rather than admiring them for their freedom. Interest in animals persists as a deep emotion, completely accessible and common to all, profoundly natural. We cannot say the same about plants ... Plants to us are principally food, drink, medicine, raw material for industry, pasturage for domestic animals, green space for cities, landscapes for relaxation. They do not arouse any real passion in most of us.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Plants, Animals, and Humans23
Who Cares About Palms?24
Are Plants Alive?26
Contemplating Our Navel27
A Bias Bordering on Injustice29
The Garden and the Peasant30
The Sorcery of Omnipresence32
And the Disadvantage of Otherness34
A Bit of Psychology36
Comparing Plants and Animals38
Chapter 2A Visit to the Landscape of Form41
Whence Form?42
Capturing Energy43
Plants, Vast Fixed Surfaces43
Animals, Small Mobile Volumes46
With Vast Internal Surfaces47
Consequences of Growth50
The Structure of Space53
The Scale of Natural Phenomena54
Relationship Between Form and Space56
Changing the Scale64
One Polarity and Radial Symmetry: Plants69
Two Polarities and Bilateral Symmetry: Animals73
And Monsters?74
What Is an Embryo?77
Homeotic Genes80
Animal Eggs, Plant Eggs84
Animals Are Strange88
The Action of Light Remains a Mystery93
The Miniature Model Versus the Sample94
Closed and Open Development95
Stories of Trees99
Fixed but Not Immobile101
The Time Scale for Plants103
Movement and Growth104
What Do the Poets Think?107
Individuals or Colonies?108
The Discovery of Reiteration110
What Is an Individual?113
Is a Tree an Individual?116
Potentially Immortal Beings117
Two Ways of Dying122
Chapter 3The Cell125
Characteristics of the Eukaryotic Cell126
Differences in Structure129
One Cell Within Another133
Differences in Function134
Where the Horticulturist Precedes the Biologist140
Foreshadowing at the Cellular Level142
Chapter 4Plant Biochemistry in a Nutshell145
The Silhouette, Cellulose or Protein146
A Regrettable Inelegance148
A Look at the Krebs Cycle151
Biochemistry for Normal Life152
Biochemistry for Relief156
An Altruistic Tree158
A Butterfly That Remembers Shapes159
Biochemistry to Take Advantage of Animal Mobility161
Are Animals Manipulated by Plants?163
A Pinnacle of Beauty166
Nauseating Flowers168
Copulating Flowers and Animals169
Chapter 5Evolution173
Do Plants and Animals Evolve the Same Way?173
One Plant, Two Generations176
Parasitic Reduction in the Haploid Generation179
One Animal, One Generation181
Soma and Germ182
Do Plants Have a Germ Line?184
The Plasticity of Organisms185
Who Wins the Prize for Plasticity?191
Genomic Plasticity192
Generators of Genetic Diversity196
Tissue Culture201
Hybrids Between Species201
Genetic Diversity Within the Plant204
The Strangler Figs of Lake Gatun205
Sorting Mechanisms211
Predatory Action215
What Does Plant Sexuality Mean?217
What Causes Genetic Diversity Within a Plant?219
The Vertebrate Immune System220
Stationary Lives and Genetic Diversity222
Resistance of Biologists to a Genetics Unique to Plants224
Darwin or Lamarck?225
Are Bacteria Lamarckian?227
How Weeds Defend Themselves Against Herbicides228
Must We Choose Between Darwin and Lamarck?230
Geographic Convergence231
Divaricating Plants of New Zealand234
The Beeches of Verzy237
Mimes and Mimicry239
Two Different Classifications243
Chapter 6Of Other Living Beings249
Trees and Corals252
Coral Architecture254
Returning to the Idea of the Individual258
Concerning Plasticity261
Reticulate Evolution265
The Forest and the Reef267
How to Live Fixed in Place268
Plants and Insect Societies270
Evolution of Behavior or of Form?273
Looking for Analogues274
Is a Plant a Crystal?276
Immanence and Transcendence280
Chapter 7Ecology283
Give Plants Their Due284
Nutrition and Biological Types285
Ambiguity in the Relationship Between Eater and the Eaten288
Climates and Landscapes291
Who Needs the Other Most?293
Noah's Two Arks296
What Do We Recognize as Success?298
In Praise of Plants299
Dispersion or Concentration300
Are Plants Persons?302
The Two Faces of Botany303

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In Praise of Plants 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
panamacoffee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plants don't move the way animals do. Therefore they have evolved ways to get animals to do work that requires moving for them. Hallé wrote about this idea in French in 1999. It was translated into English in 2002, soon after the appearance of Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (2001), which presents a remarkably similar idea. Botany of Desire became a best-seller. In Praise of Plants did not. It may be a little too scientific for the general public, but the author has a great sense of humor and makes his points with hand-drawn, enchanting illustrations.