Download e-book for iPad: An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown

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 via the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and variety of existence in the world. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown offers the oft-ignored seed with the traditional background it merits, one approximately as diverse and spectacular because the earth's flowers 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 around the world. In a transparent and interesting kind, he delves into the technological know-how 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 advisor with an eye fixed for the bizarre, Silvertown is excited to take readers on unexpected—but constantly interesting—tangents, from Lyme disorder to human colour imaginative and prescient to the Salem witch trials. yet he by no means shall we us disregard that the motive force at the back of the tale of seeds—its subject, even—is evolution, with its irrepressible behavior of stumbling upon new ideas 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 satisfaction, An Orchard Invisible bargains these wonders in a package deal that may be impossible to resist to technological know-how buffs and eco-friendly thumbs alike.

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

Sample text

In these few pages is treated the great analogy which is to be found between plants and animals in that they increase their family in the same way,” and he continued: The petal of the flower in itself contributes nothing to generation but only serves as the bridal bed, which the Great Creator arranged so beautifully, and garnished with such precious bed-curtains, and perfumed with so many delicious scents, in order that the bridegroom with his bride may therein celebrate their nuptials with so much greater solemnity.

The big evolutionary breakthrough that involved two individuals exchanging DNA occurred very early in the history of life, before even the different roles of male and female had evolved. The very antiquity of the event is why virtually all life engages in sex. We all do it because all our ancestors 21 Chapter Three did it, and of course we exist for that very same reason. Why, though, was sex so successful as a means of reproduction? Why has it persisted since almost the dawn of life? That is a puzzle.

Usually, anything that increases the number of descendants that an individual will leave will also increase, or at least maintain, the total number of individuals in a population, and so we are unused to the counterintuitive idea that evolution could threaten species survival by bringing about a lowering of total population size. However, in the unusual predicament that the Sahara cypress finds itself in, this is quite possible, perhaps even inevitable. The problem is caused by the fact that in androgenesis all descendants arise from pollen; although ovules are required for the formation of seeds, they do not propagate the genes of the tree that produces them.

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

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