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A Natural History

From the magnificence of a towering redwood to the simple elegance of a tiny dandelion, seed-bearing plants abound on planet Earth. The sheer diversity of plants thriving today is largely thanks to the evolution of the seed, as this made plants resilient to environmental changes by enabling them to await optimum conditions for growth before springing to life. In a time of declining biodiversity, studying seeds is now helping scientists preserve this plant diversity for future generations.

With Seeds, Carolyn Fry offers a celebration of these vital but unassuming packages of life. She begins with a sweeping tour through human history, designed to help us understand why we should appreciate and respect these floral parcels. Wheat, corn, and rice, she reminds us, supply the foundations of meals eaten by people around the world. Countless medicines, oils, clothing materials, and building supplies are available only because of the versatility and variety of seed-bearing plants. Fry then provides a comprehensive history of the evolution of seeds, explaining the myriad ways that they have adapted, survived, and thrived across the globe. Delving deeper into the science of seeds, she reveals the fascinating processes of dormancy, reproduction, germination, and dispersal, and showcases the estimable work conservationists are doing today to gather and bank seeds in order to prevent species from going extinct.

Enriched by a stunning array of full-color images, Seeds offers a comprehensive exploration of some of the most enduring and essential players in the natural world.

192 pages | 186 color plates, 12 halftones | 6 3/4 x 9 1/2 | © 2016

Biological Sciences: Botany, Ecology, Natural History

Earth Sciences: Environment


"The humble seed proves wonderfully interesting in Fry's hands. She has included superb and original images throughout the book, many of them illustrating, with light and scanning electron microscopy, aspects of plants and their biology that have rarely been presented as well. These images are not only a pleasure to view but also prove vital in conveying the book’s many compelling ideas and stories. Fry’s inclusive, well-rounded approach to Seeds—discussing botanical change over time as well as considering the seed in the context of the whole plant and its environment—is both refreshing and instructive. For scientists and nonscientists alike, I strongly recommend this book."

American Scientist

“Fry’s splendidly illustrated kaleidoscope of the science and history of the seeds that sustain us is a manual for the new era—pinpointing how seeds transformed our ability to feed ourselves, how we in turn transformed them, and what conservation means in a world dominated by humans.”

New Scientist

“Throughout her well-organized, beautifully illustrated book, Fry interweaves sections devoted to plant physiology with those about famous seed banks and with ‘profiles’ of notable plant species, with a no-nonsense, lucid style.”

Pacific Standard

"Highly compartmentalized, in that many insets explain specific points with numerous color illustrations. Fry concentrates on broad evolutionary developments and how climate change might impact the future of humanity by reducing biodiversity in the supply of seeds. Historical advances are presented, especially the creation of large scale seed banks around the world. Several graphical charts present human use of seeds through the ages, how plants evolved from algae to angiosperms, seed anatomy, and how seeds are dispersed."


"Seeds is a well-illustrated volume addressed to generalists that provides much worthwhile information. This book would make an excellent means to introduce family and friends to concepts that delight botanists, especially favoring the interests in applied, economic botany."

Plant Science Bulletin


Garden Media Guild: Garden Media Guild Awards

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