Synopses & Reviews
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 earthand#8217;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 unexpectedand#8212;but always interestingand#8212;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 seedsand#8212;its theme, evenand#8212;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 scientistand#8217;s knowledge and a gardenerand#8217;s delight, An Orchard Invisible offers those wonders in a package that will be irresistible to science buffs and green thumbs alike.
About 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.
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 Sorrowand#8217;s Mysteries: Poisons
14 Ah, Sun-flower! Oil
15 John Barleycorn: Beer
16 Realm of Illusion: Coffee
17 Nourishment and Inspiration: Gastronomy
Sources and Further Reading