Flowering Earth

Donald Culross Peattie, Author, Paul Landacre, Illustrator, Paul Landacre, Photographer Indiana University Press $25 (276p) ISBN 978-0-253-20662-6
Even a diehard urbanite would likely be seduced by this extraordinary chronicle of the plant kingdom, originally published in 1939 and now back in print. The late Donald Peattie, a botanist and author ( Singing in the Wilderness: A Salute to John James Audubon ), meanders through the plant kingdom, recalling the marvels he has witnessed in vivid, evocative prose (``On icy peaks the sprawling crustose lichen clings where even a mountain goat would gasp and stumble'') and explaining the innards and workings of plants with clarity and imaginative images (``the pistil is in general shaped like a carafe or Chianti bottle, with a swollen base which is the ovary proper, containing the ovules or unfertilized egg cells''). He writes of plants that inspire awe, like the mighty Sequoia tree--``unimaginable titans . . . in their uplifted hands they permit the little modern birds . . . to nest and call''--and of more ordinary greens, from seaweed to conifers, but always with the same sense of wonder. Nor does he overlook the lowly weed. With typically wry humor, he observes, ``For me, a weed is a plant out of place.'' Illustrated with woodcuts of plants. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Genre: Nonfiction
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