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An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  89 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown presents the oft-ignored seed with the natural history it deserve

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 15th 2009 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 2009)
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Victoria Haf
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Este libro es el "free book of the month" de la Universidad de Chicago ( y habla sobre las semillas, tiene bastantes curiosidades como por ejemplo por qué la semilla del café es cafeinada, cuales son los diferentes mecanismos de dispersión y sus ventajas, la semilla más grande del mundo, las semillas prehistóricas… es sencillo, corto y entretenido, sobre todo si tienes interés en las plantas.
Apr 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own

I was kind of hoping for more botany and less natural history, but truth in advertising prevailed: the book claimed to be a natural history and it was. I learned some interesting facts, but there was also a lot of fluff, as you'd expect for a natural history written for a popular audience. Overall too much cutesiness.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interessante e bene scritto.
Un viaggio affascinamente tra storia culturare (ad esempio l'introduzione in Europa del caffe) e biologia, con un rigoroso approccio evoluzionistico, alla scoperta dei semi e di come questi siano parte integrante della nostra vita.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro interessante dalla prima all'ultima pagina, in cui la parte scientifica si sposa alla perfezione con quella divulgativa. Qualche passaggio non è di facile comprensione, ma non è un problema: basta saltare poche righe e si ritorna in sella.
Casualmente l'ho letto subito dopo Denny-McFadzean/L'ingegneria degli animali, opera con cui si integra benissimo soprattutto nelle parti che descrivono le alleanze e le strategie di difesa fra semi ed animali.
Avrebbe giovato l'inserimento di qualche
Sara Van Dyck
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
So many books on plants – what makes this one different? Well, in addition to his scientific creds, Sllvertown clearly loves the literature of seeds and plants. So along with learning that seed plants first evolved on land, but retain features of the marine environment they came from, I read thoughts from Ovid , a quote from Emily Dickinson, and a paraphrase from Shakespeare. Silvertown is enjoying himself.

Silvertown’s approach is to take familiar seeds or plants, from beans, roses, grapes, aco
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm surprised at the good reviews this book got in the press. It's a good coffee table book I guess, and one can gather all sort of little titbits. But if you're looking to really understand how plants/seeds work and their evolution, the book is a cumbersome read and it often confuses more than it illuminates. It often mentions biological/physiological terms and processes which are never explained (or sometimes explained much later), and often presupposes more knowledge than most books on evolut ...more
Cam Mannino
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Despite prejudices you might encounter at reading the title, this book is a wonderful read full of lively, clarifying metaphors like this one describing the movement of an “awn,” the bristly appendages that help many grain seeds fly through the air like a dart: “Who would have thought that a simple bristle on a grass seed could pilot it to a vertical landing, punt it over the soil surface and drill it into the earth?” Or further about awns, “ It travels like a wayward gondola steered by a derang ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Despite my deep love for natural history as a genre, I found myself perplexed that he was able to take such an exciting topic and make it drab. It was a bit too...professor-y, and not random enough. By that I mean that he seemed focused solely on his research of seeds, and didn't tangent toward all the other things involved. On the bright side, this made it a short read.
The best compliment is that I read it to a group of 11 year old girls as a bed time story thinking it would put them to sleep,
Kathy Kroeger
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great introduction book to seeds, especially if you like light playful writing. Silvertown incorporates more anecdotes than scientific facts, but he ensures that the facts he does include are memorable and worthwhile. I recommend reading this as a companion to a real botany book if you're looking to learn a lot.
Jan 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Like the best natural histories, both informative to the general public and interesting to the trained scientist. A fun read. I wasn't crazy about the quirky chapter transitions (last sentence of one chapter becomes title of next in most cases), since it seemed forced.
Dec 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
didn't like (hated) the writing style, didn't go in depth enough for my taste either. not recommended if you already know how natural selection and domestication works, cos he'll just KEEP GOING ON ABOUT IT, IN A HORRIBLE STYLE
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Really loved this book. Well written, the author used a scientific perspective, but the language used is easy to understand. Every argument is developed in depth, with lots of literature references. Really appreciate it!
أشعرني بالخجل من مناهج مدارسنا التعليمية !!
ممتع بإقتباساته و ربطه بأحداث من التاريخ
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
Light but quality pop-science on seeds, plant sex, and plant's evolutionary relationships with pollinators, parasites, and people. Via UChicago's free monthly ebook program.
Apr 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
A pleasant potpourri of seed information. The tone might be a bit too cute for some readers, but I definitely learned a lot of interesting facts.
Apr 12, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
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Ben Binford
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Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The second book I've read by Silvertown. They were both quirky, but wonderful.
Sarah W.
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Feb 26, 2010
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Erica Bruce
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Jun 27, 2017
rated it it was ok
Aug 14, 2013
Vijay Krishna
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Mar 10, 2013
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Jun 06, 2014
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Apr 10, 2016
Jul 28, 2017 added it
Shelves: environment
I enjoyed this book and the quirky, funny narrative voice that Silvertown adopts here. I found the introduction a bit too technical and the jokes a bit too forced. Later, the technical bits are fascinating and the jokes are funnier and seem less forced. Silvertown is not a historian, but I appreciate the effort he takes in historicizing seeds across time. (The Nixon-Kruschev moment he describes on p.68 was far more complex and weird than he allows, and probably undermines his point in that secti ...more
rated it it was amazing
Oct 31, 2015
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Jonathan was born and raised in London and his schoolboy nature watching was done while taking furtive short-cuts on cross-country runs across Hampstead Heath. He made much faster progress when running back from Hampstead’s bookshops in time to beat the end of lunch hour bell. His first scientific paper was submitted with an epigraph by Walter de la Mare which the editor removed with a snide comme ...more
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