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

By Jonathan Silvertown

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 provides the oft-ignored seed with the traditional heritage it merits, one approximately as various and brilliant 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 consists of his story via epochs and around the world. In a transparent and fascinating variety, he delves into the technology of seeds: How and why do 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 every type additionally gets a desirable glance, studded with examples, together with meals, oils, perfumes, and prescription drugs. An capable advisor with a watch for the bizarre, Silvertown is worked up to take readers on unexpected—but continuously interesting—tangents, from Lyme sickness to human colour imaginative and prescient to the Salem witch trials. yet he by no means we could us fail to remember that the driver in 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 deals these wonders in a package deal that might 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

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This is rather like a magician’s trick in which objects are made to disappear, only to reappear again with the flourish of a silk handkerchief. Where did the wrinkled peas go? The illusionist relies upon sleight of hand to hide objects, and Mendel concluded that nature must be pulling a similar trick, hiding the wrinkled trait. He proposed that there must be some kind of hereditary factor for seed shape which could be transmitted, but remain hidden, and then re-emerge again in a later generation.

If there are no normal sperm being produced, then no normal seeds can be set either. Could the Sahara cypress survive entirely through androgenetic reproduction? If there were surrogate mothers of other 29 Chapter Three cypress species available in its native habitat, perhaps the Sahara cypress could become a cuckoo of the desert, surviving by using other species to raise its offspring, but sadly there are none. How long could Sahara cypress survive in isolation? Cypresses, like other conifers, produce both male and female cones on the same tree, but these are costly to produce and there is likely to be a trade-off between the number of cones of each sex that are made.

36 Even Beans Do It: Sex In fact, because mortality is not always driven by natural selection, but can also occur through chance events, clonal lineages with just a few deleterious mutations will also occasionally die out too, causing the average number of mutations in the remaining population to rise. The process by which an ever-increasing load of mutations accumulates in asexual populations is called “Muller’s ratchet” because, like the tool that will only turn in one direction to become tighter and tighter, the mutation load can move in only one direction—up.

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