Jonathan Silvertown's An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds PDF

By Jonathan Silvertown

ISBN-10: 0226757803

ISBN-13: 9780226757803

The tale of seeds, in a nutshell, is a story of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by way of the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and variety of lifestyles in the world. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown offers the oft-ignored seed with the ordinary historical past it merits, one approximately as assorted and stunning because the earth's plant life itself.

Beginning with the evolution of the 1st seed plant from fernlike ancestors greater than 360 million years in the past, Silvertown includes his story via epochs and worldwide. In a transparent and fascinating variety, he delves into the technology of seeds: How and why perform a little lie dormant for years on finish? How did seeds evolve? the wide range of makes use of that people have constructed for seeds of all kinds additionally gets a desirable glance, studded with examples, together with meals, oils, perfumes, and prescription drugs. An capable consultant with a watch for the bizarre, Silvertown is excited to take readers on unexpected—but continually interesting—tangents, from Lyme affliction to human colour imaginative and prescient to the Salem witch trials. yet he by no means shall we us omit that the motive force at the back of the tale of seeds—its subject matter, even—is evolution, with its irrepressible behavior of stumbling upon new strategies to the demanding situations of life.

"I have nice religion in a seed," Thoreau wrote. "Convince me that you've a seed there, and i'm ready to anticipate wonders." Written with a scientist's wisdom and a gardener's pride, An Orchard Invisible deals these wonders in a package deal that may be impossible to resist to technology buffs and eco-friendly thumbs alike.

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Extra resources for An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds

Example text

Thus, the fig and not the wasp controls the resources devoted to pollination by fixing the number of neuter flowers in a receptacle. Though wasp larvae do not directly consume fertilized seeds as they do in yuccas, the neuter flowers in which they develop do represent resources and occupy space in the receptacle that a plant could otherwise devote to a female flower that would produce a seed. So figs have to pay indirectly for pollinator services with seeds, just like yuccas do, with the important difference that the plant and not the pollinator determines what the price shall be.

Again, this is possibly a sign of sexual failure in unfavorable conditions. Collectively, these patterns suggest that the ultimately successful asexual plant would be a rare, alien, aquatic apomict living in a geographically marginal habitat. There is no single species that fits this Identi-Kit image, if only because successful aliens are by definition not rare, but the picture painted does suggest that asexual reproduction takes off only in certain very specific ecological circumstances. It reinforces the message that it is sex that is the real universal success.

The opposite view was held by the spermists, notable amongst them the Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, who was the first to observe sperm under the microscope. Spermists believed that the egg was a mere receptacle and carer for the embryo, which they thought was actually transmitted by the sperm. This idea can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. In The Eumenides by Aeschylus, the god Apollo defends Orestes from the charge of 26 Even Beans Do It: Sex matricide by stating as an irrefutable fact that “the mother is not parent of her so-called child but only nurse of the new-sown seed.

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An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown


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