These are my top 5 popular botany books for 2015. Featured this year is an award-winning book on seeds, palaeobotany, and the history of botany. Personal reviews available on request!
See the rest of this year’s book recommendations here!
In Trees, noted garden writer Noel Kingsbury turns his pen—or pencil—to the leafy life-forms that have warmed our hearths, framed our boats for ocean voyaging, and provided us shade on summer afternoons. From the fortitude of the ancient ginkgo tree to artistic depictions of quince fruit in the ruins of Pompeii, Kingsbury explores the culinary, medicinal, cultural, and practical uses of a forest of tree species. Packed with informative and beautiful illustrations—both new and from historical archives—Trees will charm and enlighten anyone interested in our relationship with the natural world and will be a special delight for every gardener, chef, and climber of trees.
In Herbs, Kim Hurst concocts a delightful tale of the leafs, seeds, and flowers that for millennia have grown in our gardens, provided savor to our stews, and been used to treat our ailments. Many of herbs’ uses will surprise: rosemary, renowned for its piney flavor, has also been used to protect homes from thieves, aid memory, preserve youth, cure depression, and attract helpful garden elves. Packed with informative and beautiful illustrations—both new and from historical archives — Herbs will charm and enlighten anyone interested in our relationship with the natural world and will be a special delight for every chef, gourmand, gardener… or purveyor of garden elves.
In Plant Life: A Brief History, botanist Frederick Essig traces how familiar features of plants evolved sequentially over hundreds of millions of years as various environmental challenges and opportunities were met. This chronological narrative begins with the origin of photosynthesis and the rise of cyanobacteria, continues with the evolution and diversification of photosynthetic eukaryotes and their invasion of dry land, explores the varied adaptations for sexual reproduction and dispersal in the terrestrial environment, and concludes with the diverse growth forms of the flowering plants. As different groups of photosynthetic organisms are introduced, the book emphasizes the adaptations that enabled them to gain dominance in existing habitats or move into new habitats. Readers will acquire a deeper understanding of the diverse photosynthetic organisms humans depend upon for food, oxygen, medicine, building materials, and aesthetic pleasure.
Gavin Hardy and Laurence Totelin have brought together their botanical and historical knowledge to produce this unique overview of ancient botany. It examines all the founding texts of botanical science, such as Theophrastus’ Enquiry into Plants, Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, Nicolaus of Damascus’ On Plants, and Galen’ On Simple Remedies, but also includes lesser known texts ranging from the sixth century BCE to the seventh century CE, as well as some material evidence. The authors adopt a thematic approach rather than a chronological one, considering important issues such as the definition of a plant, nomenclature, classifications, physiology, the link between plants and their environment, and the numerous usages of plants in the ancient world. The book also takes care to place ancient botany in its historical, social and economic context. The authors have explained all technical botanical terms and ancient history notions, and as a result, this work will appeal to historians of ancient science, medicine and technology; classicists; and botanists interested in the history of their discipline.
In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental—objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination. How many times has a child dropped the winged pip of a maple, marveling as it spirals its way down to the ground, or relished the way a gust of wind(or a stout breath) can send a dandelion’s feathery flotilla skyward? Yet despite their importance, seeds are often seen as a commonplace, their extraordinary natural and human histories overlooked. Thanks to Thor Hanson and this stunning new book, they can be overlooked no more.