The study of the characteristics and distribution of microscopic features in wood and bark started at the end of the XVII century (Hooke, 1665) and is still ongoing. Wood anatomists have focused their efforts on the stems of dicotyledonous trees found across the world. Until now, the majority of wood related research has focused on wood identification and the physical and chemical properties of wood, together with specific economic problems. Microphotographs of wood structures presented in the literature convey information clearly and also appeal to our scientific interest. More often than not, microscopic structures also combine scientific interests with an aesthetic appreciation of their natural beauty.
The inspiration for the book ‘Design over 400 million years – A journey into the extraordinary micro-anatomy of plants’ originates from the work of Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919), whose detailed botanical illustrations capture the beauty of patterns in nature. This book doesn’t aim to replicate Haeckel’s drawings but rather to unlock fresh aspects of the detail and beauty of plant anatomy, using modern sample preparation for anatomical analyses combined with photographic techniques that highlight internal plant structures. The book presents over 100 anatomical images of plant structures as seen at 1 to 1000 times magnification. Seen under the microscope, plant structures may seem at first sight rather unattractive due to their lack of colour. However, when stained with pigments and illuminated with light through a microscope, plant cells are seen in varied unusual ways.