336 pages, 34 halftones, 3 line illus, 11 maps
The engineering of plants has a long history on this continent. Fields, forests, orchards, and prairies are the result of repeated campaigns by amateurs, tradesmen, and scientists to introduce desirable plants, both American and foreign, while preventing growth of alien riff-raff. These horticulturists coaxed plants along in new environments and, through grafting and hybridizing, created new varieties. Over the last 250 years, their activities transformed the American landscape.
"Horticulture" may bring to mind white-glove garden clubs and genteel lectures about growing better roses. But Philip J. Pauly wants us to think of horticulturalists as pioneer "biotechnologists," hacking their plants to create a landscape that reflects their ambitions and ideals. Those standards have shaped the look of suburban neighborhoods, city parks, and the "native" produce available in our supermarkets.
In telling the histories of Concord grapes and Japanese cherry trees, the problem of the prairie and the war on the Medfly, Pauly hopes to provide a new understanding of not only how horticulture shaped the vegetation around us, but how it influenced our experiences of the native, the naturalized, and the alien - and how better to manage the landscapes around us.
Fruits and Plains adopts a novel approach to the history of contemporary restoration ecology and modern concerns about invasive species in America. Rather than view these practices as new developments in ecology and conservation biology, Philip Pauly shows how they can be seen as the culmination of a 200-year history of horticultural practice in the United States. -- Sharon Kingsland Science 20080425 Philip Pauly has written a new chapter in the history of American horticulture...[The book has] some illuminating insights about the importance of American horticulture in the shaping of the nation. -- Andrea Wulf Times Literary Supplement 20080530 Although the book is a scholarly history, the author's engaging style makes it a pleasure to read...This work is valuable for botanists and historians. -- L. W. Roberts Choice 20080801 Eye-opening...Fruits and Plains is skilled, authoritative, insightful, and original, a pioneering exploration of innovation in American horticulture and its relationship to the natural environment during the two centuries or so that preceded the recent emergence of agricultural biotechnology. It merits a prime place in the growing historical literature concerning the linked subjects of agricultural development, agribusiness, the environment, biological science, food, and globalization. -- Daniel J. Kevles New York Review of Books 20100513
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