A spectacular book has just been published, Seeds: Time Capsules of Life by Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy. It’s a delicious combination of eye-candy and brain-food. Very large color close-ups of very tiny seeds, photographed against black background, are the eye-candy. The brain-food is the explanations of how the diverse design details of the seed relates to its function. The book contains a huge amount of technical information about seeds and plant anatomy. However, the glorious color format makes it pleasant to dip into again and again, as your botanical knowledge grows. Plants are endlessly fascinating and seeds themselves are profound. Contemplating seeds inevitably inspires awe. Many religions have used the power of seeds as a metaphor in parables – the mustard seed is one example. The photography and microphotography in this book allow us to see some of the glories of nature as never seen before, and they will set your spirit soaring.
As capsules of life, seeds use a variety of strategies for dispersal by wind, water, and wildlife. Plant life on land began almost 600 million years ago. Conifers are the oldest seed plants that have survived to the present day, and have been around for 300 million years. Around 150 million years ago the first flowering plants appeared. Since that time evolution has been creating resilience and diversity in those seeds. Some seeds take ten years to develop on the tree, and some seeds can remain viable for thousands of years. Although the Seychelles nut can weigh up to 20 pounds, most seeds are incredibly smaller. The smallest seeds are found in orchids; some so tiny that 7.5 million of them weighs one gram. It’s those very small seeds that provide some of the most astonishing images in this amazing new book.
The format is quite brilliant in that it encourages a concentrated examination of the seeds, awakening a more perceptive understanding and appreciation, beyond merely identifying them. The authors themselves marvel at the technology that allows us to see such detail on such a minute scale.
Firefly Books, Westport, CT, 2006, www.fireflybooks.com, 800-565-6034, 1-55407-221-2, 264 pages, 252 color photographs, hardback, $60.00