Botany of Desire

This book describes the relationship that has developed between plants and people.

Plants attract us through different desires: sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control. In many ways, both people and plants have benefited from these relationships, and that is what the book describes.

  1. Apples are used as the modality to describe the desire of sweetness. The author provides a fascinating account of Johnny Appleseed and how as he grew apples from seeds, his apple trees would be quite genetically diverse. His apples would not be for food, so much as for fermented drink as Apple Jack. Each Apple seed is different from the tree and apples will be different size, shape, taste, etc. Our use of grafting has decreased the apple’s generic diversity weakening the tree but giving us sweet consistent fruit.
  2. Tulips are used to discuss the desire of beauty. He describes how plants attract attention to help their survival using the story of tulip mania.
  3. Cannabis drives the desire of intoxication.  Here the author discusses how plants control behaviors of others (from insects to humans) for their survival. He describes how many of the top botanists went underground and modified cannabis to increase potency, consistency, and improve on growing while benefiting the plant by increasing its sheer numbers.
  4. The potato leads the story of control and sustenance.  There is the story of Monsanto and genetically modified crops. He discusses how there is growing industrial control of farming removing the power from the farmer and seeds to large industrial companies who own the genetics as a copyright product. This leads to a monoculture which can weaken a plant species’ ability to withstand parasites or other potential harms compared with increased diversity of the plant’s genetics.