Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Review: _Anatomy of a Rose_ by Sharman Apt Russell

Anatomy of a rose is a book about flowers, especially about the thing that they do and that they are that human often overlook. Flowers grow, bloom, they rely on pollinators to reproduce but many have backup plans just in case the pollinators fail, they communicate with specific pollinators, they both cooperate with and trick their pollinators (and the pollinators do the same), plants cooperate and compete with one another, some plants are carnivorous, some plant regulate their body temperature. Flowers that are pollinated by bees may be more colorful than we can imagine, as bees can see higher wavelengths of light than we can.

The author talks about the effects that flowers have on humans. We love color, we want to be around flowers, and we want flowers to ‘heal’ us. Even though flowers have their own purposes and are not here to serve us humans, we do find much delight and practical use in them.

This is a fascinating book about a world in which we humans are often merely astonished spectators, unable to quite see the entire story. Nonetheless, the author manages to describe this world in terms that make the lives of plants and their pollinators relevant to our own experiences. The descriptions of plants as advertising, communicating with one another, engaging in sexual activities, and participating in games of cooperation and competition with one another and the creatures they depend on are useful metaphors to help us understand what it is we are actually seeing when we look out on a field of wildflowers.

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