cover image Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants

Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants

Nicholas Harberd, . . Bloomsbury, $24.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-1-58234-413-3

Even the most hardcore city dweller will be moved by British plant biologist Harberd's look at the life cycle of the thale cress plant, as he records not only the stages of a single species through one year but also provides an outline of "the unseen molecular forces that drive plants from stage to stage." Harberd engagingly shows how this common but ignored garden plant, with its short life span and small genome, is perfect for the plant geneticist, "our own Drosophila (fruit-fly)." Once scientists have determined its entire DNA sequence, they will be able to "get to grips with solving some of the most important questions in plant biology." Most enjoyable are Harberd's passionate observations—from the "exhilarating" results of stem cell behavior to how the "awesome velocity" of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring reminds him of the "brutal in Nature"—and how he successfully uses those observations to convey a view that "the world is a whole" and that even the most common plant can help us "see ourselves as part of something sacred. Perhaps even redefine our science as something sacramental." Illus. (May)