The Nature Of Plants – A Book Review
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
In the Nature of Plants by Craig Huegel and published by the University Press of Florida, gardeners especially will enjoy learning what makes plants tick. After all, there are over 288,000 unique species of plants in existence today, nearly 90% are flowering plants (think pollen, edibles, and color), and every human and animal owe their existence to plants.
The author – exactly our type – has much practical knowledge as a lifelong gardener, along with a keen eye for observation. Huegel is a gardener first and a biologist second. He has an appreciation of the beauty of plants and their underlying biology.
We learn about the earliest of plants well before the arrival of the cycads (sago, Dioon, coontie, and cardboard plant) that were eaten by dinosaurs and today dramatically grace conservatories around the world and our tropical and sub-tropical climes. Through the eleven comprehensive chapters we also discover plants’ relationships to light, water, soil, structure, roots, stems, leaves, reproduction, seeds, hormones, and communication. The last two chapters on plant hormones and communication, where much of the current cutting-edge research is taking place, are most intriguing.
Throughout the book we are frequently reminded about what we previously learned about plants, but the presentation and context make it more understandable and germane. Here is a sampling of some of the basic and unusual information found throughout the book:
- Through photosynthesis, solar energy converts to chemical energy to fuel plant life. To thrive or even survive, plants have varying requirements for levels of Stifle the source of light and plants will lean towards what light is available.
- Stems are the plant organ that connects the roots to the leaves. They transport water and sugars and often play a significant role in photosynthesis.
Terminal buds are located at the end of each stem and are the site where primary growth occurs. Axillary buds located along the stems are locations where new terminal growth could occur.
- No leaf lives forever and hormones paly a role in when they drop.
- Reproduction is necessary for survival and supports wildlife with the resulting cones, flowers, and fruit which also add visual interest to the plants. Plants reproduce by sexual or asexual reproduction.
- Plant hormones regulate growth and development. They help plants sense gravity and grow towards light.
- Plants, which are typically rooted in place and cannot move to avoid danger or seek better growing conditions, have developed ways to communicate amongst themselves. One method is by releasing scents into the air. Biologists call them volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are used to elicit responses from other plants. Plants release VOCs specific to the pest attacking them. Beneficial insects that attack the pests are attracted by that specific VOC.
This is a book to keep near at hand so that after a stroll through the garden various aspects about plants can be explored. Regarding a plant’s use of VOCs – is there a response from a plant when it is pruned instead of being attacked by a pest? Check out this intriguing book for the answer.
Hortus Oasis (LA0001090) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial, and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886/ firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.houzz.com/pro/hortusoasis/__public.
Credit: All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis