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Wonders of the Plant Kingdom

A Microcosm Revealed

Compared to the obvious complexity of animals, plants at a glance seem relatively simple in form. But that simplicity is deceptive: the plants around us are the result of millennia of incredible evolutionary adaptations that have allowed them to survive, and thrive, under wildly changing conditions and in remarkably specific ecological niches. Much of this innovation, however, is invisible to the naked eye.
            With Wonders of the Plant Kingdom, the naked eye gets an unforgettable boost. A stunning collaboration between science and art, this gorgeous book presents hundreds of images of plants taken with a scanning electron microscope and hand-colored by artist Rob Kesseler to reveal the awe-inspiring adaptations all around us. The surface of a peach—with its hairs, or trichomes, and sunken stomata, or breathing pores—emerges from these pages in microscopic detail. The dust-like seeds of the smallest cactus species in the world, the Blossfeldia liliputana—which measures just twelve millimeters fully grown—explode here with form, color, and character, while the flower bud of a kaffir lime, cross-sectioned, reveals the complex of a flower bud with the all-important pistil in the center.
            Accompanying these extraordinary images are up-to-date explanations of the myriad ways that these plants have ensured their own survival—and, by proxy, our own. Gardeners and science buffs alike will marvel at this wholly new perspective on the world of plant diversity.

160 pages | 250 color plates | 9 3/4 x 9 3/4 | © 2015

Biological Sciences: Botany, Ecology, Natural History


"The pseudocolored electron micrographs that grace the pages of this striking book reveal the dazzling array of adaptations in the plant kingdom. Featuring a wide range of seeds, spores, fruits, and pollen, the accompanying text offers a straightforward primer on plant reproduction as well as a discussion of the Royal Botanic Gardens' efforts to protect plant biodiversity."


A "Recent Publication of Interest": "Spectacular color photographs and hand-colored scanning electron micrographs are accompanied by short blocks of text explaining botanical phenomena. The text focuses on flowers and their structures and on ecological interactions (pollination and seed dispersal)."


Table of Contents


The Incredible Life of Plants

Precious dust

The difference between pollen, spores and seed

Those who copulate in secret • No match for a seed

An invisible microcosm • Apertures • Finding the other half

Pollination by wind and water • Pollination by animals

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder • The insect

pollination syndrome • Bee flowers • Butterfly and moth flowers

Flies and beetles as pollinators • The bird pollination syndrome

The bat pollination syndrome • Typical bat flowers

Exotic pollinators • The advantages of animal pollination

Fruits and Seeds

What is a fruit and what is a vegetable? • The true nature of fruits

The various ways to get around • Wind dispersal • Seeds like dust

Masterpieces of Nature • Indirect wind dispersal

Water dispersal • Rafters and sailors • Sea beans

The biggest seed in the world • Explosive strategies

Animal couriers • Tenacious hitchhikers • Caltrops, devil’s claws

and other sadistic fruits • Reward rather than punishment

Small rewards for little helpers • Juicy temptations

Colourful appendages • Fraudsters of the plant kingdom

The everlasting beauty of plants


The ‘Making Of ’ Wonders of the Plant Kingdom:

How Science Becomes Art

The Millennium Seed Bank:

The World’s Largest Plant Conservation Initiative


Glossary • Bibliography • Index

Acknowledgments • Picture Credits


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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