The Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan

Starting off with the question of whether gardeners could be “human bumblebees,” essentially goaded into spreading plants around much like bees assist in pollination, Pollan continues on to examine the histories of four key cultivated plants under the shadow of this question. He organizes them into categories of desire: sweetness (the apple), beauty (the tulip), intoxication (marijuana), and control (the potato). In the face of the sheer enormity of plants in the world, his choices can seem arbitrary to the degree where he could have picked the plants that most readily prove his point, but at the same time they seem fairly representative of the extensive different motivations for growing plants.

His arguments and questions are persuasive, and he has plenty of intriguing plant facts to interest the fairly unread, casual plant grower.

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