In Praise of Plants

Hallé, F. 2002. A Visit to the Landscape of Form, pg. 41-124; Evolution, pg. 173-184 in: In Praise of Plants. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

In the chapter – A Visit to the Landscape of Form, Hallé discusses in-depth how morphology has for too long been on the fringe of scientific thought. This is a shame as form “gives access to more essential information than quantitative investigation can provide” (pg.42). Loaded with this knowledge Hallé spends the rest of the chapter describing the unique qualities of plants and that that makes them different from animals. In fact for too long he argues there has been a bias in the scientific community of understanding plants in relation to what is known of animals. Next, In the chapter – Evolution, Hallé furthers his argument of the uniqueness of plants by introducing the concept that, “all plants possess two genetically different generations, one haploid and the other diploid” (pg. 181), this is drastically different then that of animals, which are much simpler only having one generation, diploid. In addition to this intriguing difference, Hallé poses the question, “Why do plants need two generations yet animals do very well with one?” (pg. 182).

The emphasis on the read material was overwhelmingly of the uniqueness of plants in relation to animals, such as their immobility, their photosynthesize capabilities and differences in evolution.

The main flaw I had with the read material was the oftentimes technical and detailed language of Hallé. Not having a background in Biology made the language hard to fathom, I oftentimes found myself reading slowly, then more slowly – still not understanding the main concept as it would be shrouded in jargon. Perhaps such information can only be conveyed through such professional language and that the amateur like myself is simple destined not to comprehend. This is a shame. A lack of understanding of the language kept compounding itself to the point that not understanding previous points directly influenced my understandin of subsequent points, such an example includes, “have dorsiventral polarity and anteroposterior and bilateral symmetry” (pg.70). However, Hallé’s use of images and metaphors were a welcome in aiding my understanding. The image the author creates of a time scale for plants on pg.103 springs to mind as an example when the words both felt relevant and when every sentence was a delight. Not to be forgotten is Hallé’s quirky humour, such as when talking of the strangeness of animals on pg.88. Humour is important; it speaks to a larger audience (your probably saying to yourself YES! – like those less intelligent beings who can’t apprehend biology terminology).

I found the read material intriguing, never have I found myself pondering such questions as; why can’t plants walk? Which led to personal revelations on volume, surfaces and photosynthesis to name but a few. This is the beauty of Hallé’s work, he doesn’t merely insist that plants are unique and remarkable; instead he contrasts all the differences they hold, which are remarkable.


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