Flora Unveiled: The Discovery and Denial of Sex in Plants

Hardcover | January 20, 2017

byLincoln Taiz, Lee Taiz

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Sex in animals has been known for at least ten thousand years, and this knowledge was put to good use during animal domestication in the Neolithic period. In stark contrast, sex in plants wasn't discovered until the late 17th century, long after the domestication of crop plants. Even after itsdiscovery, the "sexual theory" continued to be hotly debated and lampooned for another 150 years, pitting the "sexualists" against the "asexualists". Why was the notion of sex in plants so contentious for so long? Flora Unveiled is a deep history of perceptions about plant gender and sexuality,beginning in the Ice Age and ending in the middle of the nineteenth century, with the elucidation of the complete plant life cycle. Linc and Lee Taiz show that a gender bias that plants are unisexual and female (a "one-sex model") prevented the discovery of plant sex and delayed its acceptance long after the theory was definitively proven. The book explores the various sources of this gender bias, beginning with women's role asgatherers, crop domesticators, and the first farmers. In the myths and religions of the Bronze and Iron Ages, female deities were strongly identified with flowers, trees, and agricultural abundance, and during Middle Ages and Renaissance, this tradition was assimilated into Christianity in theperson of Mary. The one-sex model of plants continued into the Early Modern Period, and experienced a resurgence during the eighteenth century Enlightenment and again in the nineteenth century Romantic movement. Not until Wilhelm Hofmeister demonstrated the universality of sex in the plant kingdomwas the controversy over plant sex finally laid to rest. Although Flora Unveiled focuses on the discovery of sex in plants, the history serves as a cautionary tale of how strongly and persistently cultural biases can impede the discovery and delay the acceptance of scientific advances.

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Sex in animals has been known for at least ten thousand years, and this knowledge was put to good use during animal domestication in the Neolithic period. In stark contrast, sex in plants wasn't discovered until the late 17th century, long after the domestication of crop plants. Even after itsdiscovery, the "sexual theory" continued to...

Lincoln Taiz completed his doctoral and postdoctoral research at U.C. Berkeley, and after joined the faculty at UC Santa Cruz. Dr. Taiz has published numerous research articles on a wide range of topics in plant physiology, and is the co-author of the standard textbook in the field, Plant Physiology and Development, now in its sixth ed...

other books by Lincoln Taiz

Format:HardcoverDimensions:520 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 20, 2017Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190490268

ISBN - 13:9780190490263

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