Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Nature of Plants by Dawson & Lucas *****

An encyclopedic sourcebook on plant life. The Nature of Plants by Dawson & Lucas groups plants by environment: dry, wet, cold, etc. Additionally, special consideration is afforded to parasites, symbiotes, fire, salt, and the relationship with animals. There is also an excellent chapter on single-cell plants and another on evolution. Each chapter on a particular class of plants surveys those plants by specific worldwide geographic areas.

Not all photosynthesis is the same. Most plants use C3. Plants that need to conserve water use CAM, and plants that must endure high temperatures (such as desert ephemerals) use C4.

The largest family of flowering plants are daisies (Asteraceae) but may be displaced by orchids (Orchidaceae) which are now over 30,000 species.

What I call chaparral in California is also called maquis (French), matorral (Spanish), kwongan (Australia) or fynbos (South Africa).

The book would be even better if it had some maps, as geography is central to the information. The authors also have a tendency to use technical language without accompanying explanation.

There is a very interesting discussion of flower's relation to pollinators. Bees are red-green colorblind, so their flowers tend to be yellow or blue. Flowers for nighttime pollinators such as bats and moths tend to whites. Insects get the fragrant flowers and birds, with color vision, but no smell, get the brightly colored ones.

Did I say encyclopedic? This is the book for plant biology, ecology, geography, and evolution. An excellent resource for students and writers. Lavishly illustrated with full-color photographs throughout. (One caveat: the author supports climate change deniers - one place.)

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