Sharing my learnings from the book, The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann
The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann
’The Reason for Flowers‘ is cultural history at its best—the engaging, lively, and definitive story of the beauty, sexuality, ecology, myths, lore, and economics of the world’s flowers, written by passionately devoted author and scientist Stephen Buchmann, and illustrated with his stunning photographs.
- Humans love and crave flowers, and we always have.
- Flowering plants can’t survive on their own, and instead depend on pollinators for their procreation. These are generally flying insects like bees, beetles and butterflies.
- Plants that produce flowers are, for the most part, hermaphroditic, meaning that a single plant has both male and female reproductive parts. The pollen grains and ovules, the plant equivalents of sperm and eggs, are held in the plant’s flowers, essentially making flowers a plant’s sex organ. But when one plant wants to have sex with another, they encounter an issue: they can’t move!
- So, how do you have sex with someone who’s far away when you can’t move an inch Through bees and butterflies! After all, not only can these insects move, they fly. This makes them perfect for the role of transporting pollen grains from one flower to another and impregnating other plants in the process.
- flowers reward pollinating insects handsomely for their services. Flowers are like a kind of café or rest stop for insects where they can eat, drink and take a break. Not only that, but flowers are also an ideal location for insects to find mates and, in colder parts of the world, the inside of a blossom can even be comfortably warm. Flowers also offer specific perks to certain critters. For instance, for predatory insects, like spiders, flowers offer an ideal hiding place when hunting for food. And in the case of the male orchid bee, its flower of choice provides a sex pheromone-like fragrance that chemically attracts potential bee mates. But the most appealing thing flowers have to offer is deeply nutritious food, namely their sweet nectar. This sugar-rich, high-energy food is stored deep inside the flower, forcing pollinators to immerse themselves in the bloom, thereby covering their bodies with the flower’s sticky pollen, the grains of which are also edible and a good source of protein.
- In evolutionary terms, flowering plants are young but tremendously successful. But another key to flowers’ success is their double-fertilization. This term refers to a point in the floral reproduction cycle when the sperm divides into two cells, one fertilizing the egg and the other producing an endosperm, a kind of protective suit that shields the young seedling during its critical sprouting phase, helping it survive this inhospitable time before it can feed itself through photosynthesis.
- We all know that humans grow, breed, smell, eat, sell and buy flowers, arranging them in bouquets and planting them in gardens. Amazingly, the practice of using flowers in human death rites dates back so far that archaeologists even discovered flowers in a 70,000-year-old grave site near the skeletons of Neanderthals. Because they console humans by reminding us of the perpetual cycle of life and death.
- The first European botanists discovered that plants are in fact sexual beings that produce both fertile ovules and sperm in the form of pollen grains. This knowledge made crossbreeding a snap. The botanists just took the pollen from a flower and applied it to the sticky stigma of a different species. Then, if they were lucky, a fruit or seeds would appear which they would plant and, pretty soon, a hybrid would sprout.
- Flowers provide us with food and perfumes.
- both broccoli and cauliflower, though posing convincingly as vegetables, are essentially flower blooms that have yet to unfurl.
- honey, which is simply floral nectar processed by bees.
- since way back when, people have sought out ways to capture and preserve the scents of flowers – say, by producing perfumes.
- the first scents preserved from plants actually took the form of incenses that our ancestors burned, often for religious purposes.
- medieval Arab chemists who, in the tenth century, developed a process of steam distillation that they used to make rose water. The technique involved boiling rose petals and harvesting the fragrant steam containing the flower’s essential oils.
- Flowers have left their mark on human culture.
- People flock to buy bouquets, as Valentine’s day rolls around, that communicate things like love and affection because flowers mean something to us.
- there was an absolute obsession with using flowers as secret codes to communicate with lovers or friends. It began in Paris in 1819 with the publication of a book called Le Langage des Fleurs, which detailed the symbolic meaning of individual flowers as well as that of bouquets.
- And secret communication wasn’t the only symbolic use of flowers; they were also prominently featured in texts and paintings as icons rich with meaning and examples of tremendous natural beauty.
- Painters throughout history have also been enticed by the intricate shapes and colors of flowers, striving to capture their natural beauty. This was especially true for the Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, who became obsessed with flowers and managed to produce nearly photo-realistic depictions, many of them still lifes. For these artists, flowers served as the inspiration to strive for new artistic heights.
- plants have also been essential to scientific discoveries. For instance, the observation of the manner in which plants are distributed across the globe led to a major breakthrough in the fields of geography.
- biophilia, a term that describes the natural human desire to be in nature and our propensity to gravitate toward green settings and flowers.
- Essentially, we like flowers because they’re similar to the things we’re intuitively drawn to. Flowers have similar stand-out colors to ripe fruits and many of their scents are chemically related to those of fruits as well. Therefore, they trigger positive feelings by reminding us of the things we need or want, perhaps like a photo of a loved one.
- Studies have also shown that nature can calm us down and even promote healing.