36 pages 1 hour read

Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2001

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Important Quotes

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“Through trial and error these plant species have found that the best way to do that is to induce animals—bees or people, it hardly matters—to spread their genes. How? By playing on the animals’ desires, conscious and otherwise.”

(Introduction, Page xv)

Pollan introduces the main premise of the book—that plants have survived by inducing animals to help them. In the process, plants manipulated animals’ needs and wants. Pollan makes plants a central actor in their own drama, instead of relegating this role only to humans. 

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“Its broader subject is the complex reciprocal relationship between the human and natural world, which I approach from a somewhat unconventional angle: I take seriously the plant’s point of view.”

(Introduction, Page xvi)

Pollan is “plant-centric” in his book. He adopts the plant’s perspective and shows how they sagely survived through playing to human desires. This is an unorthodox way of looking at the interaction between the human and plant world. 

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“After ten thousand years of coevolution, their genes are rich archives of cultural as well as natural information. The DNA of that tulip there, the ivory one with the petals attenuated like sabers, contains detailed instructions on how best to catch the eye not of a bee but of an Ottoman Turk; it has something to tell us about that age’s idea of beauty.” 

(Introduction, Page xvii)

Pollan believes that by looking at plants, we can understand the ways in which humans have manipulated them over the years. In the process, we can understand more about the culture, history, and desires of humans. Therefore, history is literally written into the petals of flowers and the leaves of plants.