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BookofSeedsDr Paul Smith
Ivy Press, £30.00

A fascinating insight into the world of seeds, this book covers just some of the 370,000 known seed-bearing plant species. The seeds were chosen to represent the ‘best’ of each of a wide range of categories, including their appearance, rarity, usefulness and ecological significance.

The reader is thus provided with an overview of the diversity of morphology, function and uses to be found in seeds that enable them to succeed as ‘travellers in space and time’.

An introductory section provides an overview of plant classification, as well as the evolutionary development of seed-bearing plants. The many and varied ways that seeds are adapted to meet the sometimes conflicting demands of dispersal and germination are described, and the increasingly important relationship between humans and seeds is explored. The need for and methodology of seed conservation are outlined as a way to avoid extinction and to help maintain plant diversity. This is especially important as relatively few plant species have so far been screened, but have the potential to be useful.

The second section provides information on the seeds of 600 individual species grouped taxonomically. Each species account includes a description of both the plant and the seed, together with their geographical distribution, habitat, dispersal mechanisms and conservation status, illustrated with colour photographs showing both large and actual-size images.

This is an impressive reference work that is written in a readable style, introducing technical terminology only when relevant, and there is comprehensive glossary. Its thorough and detailed insight into the importance and beauty of a diverse collection of seeds will be of interest to horticulturists and budding botanists alike.

Dr Alan Woollhead

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