A Garden of Marvels: A Garden Of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, And Other Secrets Of Plants

Ruth Kassinger, Author
Ruth Kassinger. Morrow, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-204899-8
Reviewed on: 11/18/2013
Release date: 00/00/0000
Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-06-204903-2
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-06-204901-8
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Kassinger (Paradise Under Glass) plays a chatty and knowledgeable tour guide on a pleasant ramble through the world of plants, taking time not only to stop and smell the flowers, but to investigate their histories. Inspired by her desire to understand the plants in her greenhouse and her neighborhood, she bounces between the evolutionary history of plants, from the first time a eukaryote engulfed a cyanobacterium to create a chloroplast to the emergence of C4 metabolism in tropical grasses; the gossipy social history of the people who studied, debated, argued, and discovered the principles of modern botany; and personal interviews with modern researchers and growers who specialize in quirky plants and breeding programs. In this last element, Kassinger is at her most delightful, exploring giant pumpkins, polyploid black petunias, photosynthesizing slugs, multigraft cocktail citrus trees, nickel-mining flowers, and giant grasses able to produce enough biomass to run a high-efficiency tomato greenhouse with vines 60 feet tall. Kassinger weaves a huge amount of information into what still feels like a personal memoir, and by the end of this effortless afternoon stroll with her, readers will be startled to realize how much they have learned. Drawings. (Mar.)
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