An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds


At the beginning of one chapter of this entertaining and charmingly illustrated book on seeds, there’s a sketch of two beans engaged in what, if they were human, might be called necking. Vegetables don’t really cuddle and coo, of course, but according to the author, when it comes to reproduction in the plant kingdom, practically anything else goes.

Silvertown’s short essays sample the broad panorama of strategies plants employ to spread their spawn around. In one chapter he describes winged and gossamer seeds, delicately structured because they have evolved to be spread by the wind. Gliders produced by a tropical vine named Alsomitra macrocarpa sport wingspans of nearly five inches, and if there’s a good breeze they can travel hundreds of yards in search of a good spot for germination. The course of true love, though, doesn’t always run smooth—seeds that travel too far run the risk of landing outside the hospitable environment of their parents and failing to thrive.

224 pages, paperback

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