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The Triumph of Seeds

How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

By Thor Hanson
12-minute read
Audio available
The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson

The Triumph of Seeds (2015) tells the amazing story of the influence of seeds. Find out how plants have managed to endure and evolve over the course of Earth’s long history and how they manipulated both man and animal into doing their bidding.

  • Students of biology, ecology or agriculture
  • Botanists
  • Readers who love natural science or gardening

Dr. Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist from the Pacific Northwest and an award-winning author. A Guggenheim Fellow, his other books include Feathers and The Impenetrable Forest.

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The Triumph of Seeds

How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History

By Thor Hanson
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson
Synopsis

The Triumph of Seeds (2015) tells the amazing story of the influence of seeds. Find out how plants have managed to endure and evolve over the course of Earth’s long history and how they manipulated both man and animal into doing their bidding.

Key idea 1 of 7

Every seed consists of three parts and, though they vary in how they develop, all seeds rely on water.

The world is full of an immense variety of plants that spring from a small seed – plants that then go on to produce their own seeds. Just compare a walnut to a peanut to see how different seeds can be.

Yet, despite their different appearances, all seeds consist of three parts: an embryo, a nutrient tissue and a coat.

To better understand these parts, you can think of a seed’s embryo as the baby, the nutrient tissue around the embryo as the baby’s lunch and the coat as a sort of protective shell.

Seeds begin to show their differences when it’s time to germinate. Germination is the phase that begins when a seed takes its first drink of water, or imbibes, and ends when the embryonic root sprouts forth.

Now, this process can vary depending on the seed. The common germination procedure is for the coat to open up, the baby to slowly eat its lunch and then grow roots and sprout upward.

But in other seeds, the baby may eat its lunch before the coat opens. In this case, the baby uses the energy from its meal to form embryonic seed leaves, or cotyledons, to keep the young plant healthy during difficult times, when sun and water are in short supply.

And if you’ve eaten a peanut or a walnut, then you know what seed leaves look and taste like. When you crack open a peanut’s shell and remove the thin layer around it, you’ll see that the peanut is made up of two distinct halves; these are the seed leaves.

But regardless of variety, seeds need water to grow.

Different seeds may imbibe at different times during the germination process, but every seed is designed to grow roots – and this important step requires water.

So, if the seed is unable to imbibe, the seed will lie dormant.

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