the triumph of seeds

Thor Hanson, 2015,  page xix-18 and  55-80 in the The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. The Basic Book Edition, US

Thor Hanson appears in his book as the storyteller about the seed. And all of the stories in the book are simply to resolve one question “Why seed can transform the planet” by variety of their characters. The book illustrates five main traits of seed, which is also the main contents of the book “Seed Nourish”, “Seed Defend”, “Seed Endure”, “Seed Travel”, “Seed Unite”. Each of the chapter that includes in these content can be either his travel to find the origin of the seed, his imitation of the old experiment,…

The book begins with the author’s struggle to crack the seed open. It’s the great way of him to lead us to a fundamental fact of seed, or as he said “an important evolutionary lesson”. The thick husk that cover the seed, it’s what ensure the future of one plant species. And Hanson concluded that fact in one sentence “in the history of plants, no single event has ensured the protection, dispersal, and establishment of their progeny more than the invention of seeds”.

The humorous that Hanson puts in between make the book’s content become more fresh. For example in the introduction, the author describes the seed opening challenge as “that thick husk hadn’t evolved merely to thwart a hapless graduate student”. Moreover his comparison of special traits of plants to things in life helps us to imagine and understand easier about their roles and at the same time, makes them become the main characters in the book. For example in chapter 5, Thorson tell us about the spore plants “Because they don’t “pack a lunch” for their babies, spores have no nutritional value.” This sentence explains the reason why human can’t manipulate them, which help the plant species (e.g mosses and ferns) remained unchanged, comparing to their ancestor. Or the similarity between the transformation of clothes- from towel to pyjama of the human to the process of the seed cover adaptation.

Beside Thor Hanson himself and the seed, there are also other characters in the story. Mendel can also be considered as one of them. In chapter 5, the author tries his hand on imitating the experiment of the scientist to confirm the result. Hanson shows his admiration to Mendel and illustrates how important and significant Mendel’s discover is to the world of science. The author uses many phrase to praise the scientist’work. “His meticulous methods and statistical approach to science were decades ahead of their time”; or at the beginning of the introduction “Scientist might still be waiting to understand genetics if that famed pea experiment ahead instead been “Mendel’s Spores”. And the fact that he spends the entire chapter to talk about the experiment and his admiration already tells everything. Bill Dimichelle also play one significant role in the story. Bill is the leader of the coal-expeditions, looking for traces of plants in ancient days.His “insatiable curiousity” and the philosphy of “Never argue with a fool- an onlooker can’t tell the difference” is what keeps him going strong on his discover process. Bill and his crew’s recent expeditions have changed many people (even Hanson himself)’ point of view about the time phase when seed plants domination started to take place, which is the Carboniferous.

Thor Hanson and his love for the seed is what lead us through out the stories,and we get to take a glimpse of the endless potential of this amazing part of the plant. However  I believe that there are many interesting things about the seeds that left for us to discover in the future, and we can get advantage of them to understand more about the history of earth and their natural resources.





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