Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn ChaceSeeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn Chace

Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit

byTeri Dunn Chace, Robert Llewellyn

Hardcover | August 26, 2015

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“Llewellyn’s images reflect a depth of detail that until now, only the best botanical illustrators could approach.” —The Washington Post

A centuries-old saying goes, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.” But as this dazzling book reveals, there is much more to a seed than the plant it will someday become: seeds, seedheads, pods, and fruits have their own astounding beauty that rivals, and sometimes even surpasses, the beauty of flowers. Bitter melon seeds resemble a handful of rubies. Poppy pods could be art nouveau salt shakers. And butterfly vine seeds look exactly like those delicate insects captured in mid-flight. 

Seeds also come with fascinating stories. Jewels of Opar got its name from a fabled city in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan stories. Lotus seeds sent into orbit by Chinese scientists came back to earth mysteriously altered. And fava beans—beloved of foodies—have a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality: they can cause the debilitating condition known as favism in some individuals and at the same time combat the microorganism that causes malaria.

In these stunning pages you’ll gain an understanding of how seeds are formed and dispersed, why they look the way they do, and how they fit into the environment. Seeing Seeds will take you to strange and wonderful places. When you return, it’s safe to say that you’ll never look at a seed the same way again.
Teri Dunn Chace is a writer and editor with more than thirty-five book in publication. She has also written and edited extensively for Horticulture, North American Gardener, Backyard Living, and Birds and Blooms. Raised in California and educated at Bard College in New York, Chace has gardened in a variety of climate zones and soil typ...
Title:Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and FruitFormat:HardcoverDimensions:284 pages, 10 × 8.5 × 1 inPublished:August 26, 2015Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604694920

ISBN - 13:9781604694925


Rated 5 out of 5 by from great description of contents 5+++ stars for this wonderful book. The illustrations and intimate tree details are a real eye opener to the secret lives of trees. I loved this book!
Date published: 2013-11-04

Read from the Book

Introduction: The Edge of a Mystery If you have ever been on a journey and returned a changed person, I invite you to sit down with this book. I’ve been on a seeds odyssey. Not with seeds in my pockets or sewn into my hemline like an immigrant, a preservationist, or a long-ago plant explorer, but with Bob Llewellyn’s exquisite and insightful photographs as my pathway. I had thought I was well equipped with horticultural and botanical knowledge, seeing as I am a lifelong gardener, an amateur botanist, and the author of various books about plants and nature. While I am not a scientist, I have delved into their thick books and scholarly papers. Although I am not a farmer, I have heeded reflections of everyone from Scott Chaskey to Vandana Shiva to Michael Abelman. I have also talked with local and distant farmers and gardening friends about this project. Like a child in a fairy tale who follows a beckoning songbird far from home into unrecognizable territory, my seed journey began with curiosity and took me to strange places. Sometimes the load seemed heavy and the road looked long—seeds are complicated and puzzling. Other times a seed revealed its inner secrets before drifting away on a breeze. The ingenuity of the seeds of this world, not to mention their sheer volume of production, is astounding and real. Many seeds are small, but we should underestimate none of them. What they contain and do is huge, mysterious, and important. This book highlights 100 representative seeds, fruits, and pods. Even after settling on five logical categories, I questioned some of the designated slots. Seed versatility is a given, and variations in form and function are legion. But we can discern patterns and principles. These pages are but a glimpse into the complexities and quirks of plant life and its drive to reproduce and ensure its own continuation. Some seeds appear to follow a straightforward path. A flower is pollinated, petals fall off, and the ovary swells with ripening seeds. But even this sequence is a remarkable achievement when we examine the discernible steps. Other plants do things their own way. Horsetail spores literally dance into new growing locations. Cedar cones hoard winged seeds inside—until they don’t. Wisteria pods, touch-me-nots, and okra catapult ripe seeds. Most figs are parthenocarpic, and thus bypass sexual reproduction. Datura seeds poison you or take you out of your mind. Even teeny-tiny rose seeds are not simple structures; extracting them from rose hips and sowing them will never produce a plant like the parent. I hope that after you spend some time with Bob’s images and my short expositions, you will begin to notice and respect any seeds you encounter, anywhere. In the end, like the adventurers who took Jules Verne’s imaginary journey to the center of the earth, travelers in the realm of seeds witness things both familiar and bizarre, test various assumptions, and emerge in a new place. That different location is still on this planet, but the future is fragile and understanding is provisional. It is within our power to learn more about and participate in the diverse circle of life. Everything plants do or can do, every fruit or pod or loose seed, is connected to us and to all living things. There is no autonomy; nothing is entirely solitary. To say we are co-evolutionary with seeds is to graze the edge of a mystery. A life force is embedded in everything, not just in seeds. On a mild autumn afternoon where I live in upstate New York, foliage was red, yellow, and orange; squirrels were collecting acorns; birds were alighting in the bushes and trees; and fluffy white clouds were scudding across the blue sky. I stood in a friend’s backyard, taking it all in. I had been invited to pick grapes for jelly. “Are they ready?” we wondered as we tromped across the overgrown lawn, armed with clippers and bags. We sniffed the fragrant air as we approached the thickly growing vines on their groaning supports. We picked a couple of dusky purple grapes and popped them in our mouths. They were sweet, but the skins were tough. And, unlike store-bought ones, inside were small, slender tan seeds. We spit these into the grass. “Seeds. What are they, really?” my friend mused. Autumn is the season of seeds, from acorns to grape seeds to windblown fluff from milkweed, goldenrod, and fireweed. If no one eats a seed, does it automatically grow into a new plant next spring? What is inside a seed? How does it all work? Does it all work, or is there a lot of wastefulness? These are good questions. That afternoon came back to me when I first browsed through Bob’s gorgeous photographs of a wide array of seeds, many of which were taken in autumn. His images amaze me, but they also remind me that this corner of the plant world is arguably its most important. No seeds means no flowers or plants. No seeds equals no fruit or nuts. Without seeds to nourish them, animals and birds would struggle or perish. Without seeds to nourish us, farms and foraging would come to an end. Human beings would be endangered. For plants, making seeds is serious business. It takes time, resources, and energy. Sometimes the plant is so worn out after going through the process that it dies or goes dormant. Sometimes it takes off the next year to regroup or releases a greatly reduced production. Sometimes seeds are all that remains—the hope for and the beginning of a new generation. If you think the photographs in this book are unusual, you are correct. Bob uses a unique technique known as image stacking, which allows every part of the picture to be in sharp focus. He places his quarry on a light table, then takes many shots from slightly different vantages. Afterward, he stitches them together using a software program originally developed in Russia for use with microscopes. The result has, as a reviewer of this book’s predecessor, Seeing Flowers, remarks, “the same heartbreaking clarity you’d find in a nineteenth-century botanical illustration.” Photographing seeds, pods, and fruits requires a fair amount of inventiveness and flexibility. Sometimes Bob had to carefully slice open a fruit to reveal its hidden contents. Sometimes he had to search a room for seeds that had flung out in his absence. Sometimes he had to soak, dry, coax, pry, or pin plant bits to expose seeds. He went down the rabbit hole into a wonderland. Bob’s intimate images, made with remarkable skill and care, invite awe and inspire curiosity. Come travel with us into that wonderland.

Editorial Reviews

“Seeing Seeds offers a cornucopia of photographs by Robert Llewellyn. . . . The text, by Teri Dunn Chace, offers fascinating tidbits.” —The New York Times “Both exquisitely beautiful as well as informative. . . . Reading this book will leave the reader with a greatly enhanced knowledge and appreciation of plants and their lives, as well as a sense of wonderment at so much natural beauty in unexpected places.” —Gardens Illustrated “Seek out the Seeing series, and prepare for your breath to be taken away.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk “Amazing array of spectacular photographs, many shot at unusual angles that underline their ability to, sometimes, outshine the flower that produced them.” —Hortus “This is an odyssey full of wonder that’s worthy of narration by Jacques Cousteau. . . . So often we look, but we don’t see. This book tries to change all that. Marvel at nature’s symmetry, patterns and hidden textures.” —The English Garden  “Magical encapsulations of the future, seeds also are tiny worlds of their own. The new book, Seeing Seeds, explores them in near microscopic detail.” —Sunset “A marvelously artistic and detailed look at how plants perpetuate themselves. . . . The energy and ingenuity of seeds practically jumps off the pages of the book.” —Pacific NW Magazine “You’ll never look at these important plant parts the same way again.” —Mother Nature Network  “What Llewellyn has done with his photographs is something akin to entering the temple of creation on a microscopic level.” —The Daily Progress “Revel in the splendor of the plant world with Seeing Seeds.” —Rodale’s Organic Life “A breathtaking photographic journey into the world of seedheads, pods and fruit.” —Alpine Garden Society Journal “The macro images show well-known plants like poppies and cattails in a newly glamorous, occasionally otherworldly light. This is the equivalent of an Annie Leibovitz fashion shoot for plants.” —mental_floss