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The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are the world's premiere botanical gardens. With a rich history of collecting and categorising plant species from across the globe, it stands today as a unique microcosm in which we can explore the entire plant world.
In the last 500 million years, plants have undertaken an epic journey that has not only spanned the geological ages but has altered the very make-up of the planet forever. This was a journey that began in a dark and acidic world, an imposing landscape of barren lifelessness, and ends with a planet that is draped with rich colours, overflowing with endless ornate shapes and forms, and filled with a swirling vortex of mesmerising smells. Today, the plant world is a rich web of biodiversity, with exploding pollen grains, snapping carnivorous plants and mystifying orchids.
Plants, though, are far more than just beautiful and bizarre. Through the chapters of this book we unfurl the evidence that tells the tale of how plants first began to live on land, and how they have come to fill their place in the natural world today. This is a tale that reaches deep into the soil beneath our feet and high into the atmosphere about our heads. The very first slime-like cells that established themselves as our planet's first `plants' over four hundred million years ago appear so far detached from the most elaborate and complex flowers and plants that cover our world today, and yet every single stage of their incredible journey has been integral to creating this world we live in today. It is only through pulling apart the strands that create our planet's rich network of flora that we can begin to uncover the extraordinary ways in which plants have come to live and thrive in the harshest conditions, and how an understanding of them can provide us with the answers to many of the problems that face mankind in our modern age.