216 pages, B/w illus, figs
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 Earth'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 unexpected - but always interesting - tangents, from Lyme disease to human color vision to the Salem witch trials.
Anyone who has ever marveled at the idea of a tree exploding from something as tiny as a seed will exalt in the beauty of this book. - San Francisco Chronicle "I loved this little book.... An Orchard Invisible practically spills over with interesting insights." - Boston Globe "A subtle but engaging narrative of the evolutionary struggles of seeds.... Each of the first twelve chapters of this book tells a remarkable story, accompanied by well-chosen literary excerpts." - Times Literary Supplement "Silvertown is a witty botanist with a flair for seeds.... All botanists will enjoy this tribute to seeds." - Choice "Seeds may look small and boring, yet tricks, bribes and devious deceptions lie at the heart of their evolution, as ecologist Jonathan Silvertown entertainingly recounts in this fascinating celebration of the green world upon which all human life depends." - New Scientist "A fabulous book.... Silvertown's skills are in telling stories. Expect wonders, too.... In this book, Silvertown has produced a gem.... Read it as a gardener, scientist, food aficionado, historian, botanist, or naturalist, and you'll not be disappointed." - Times Higher Education"
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Jonathan Silvertown is professor of ecology at the Open University, Milton Keynes, and is the author of Demons in Eden and editor of Fragile Web.