Category: News from the Library
August 21, 2012
News from the Library
Our Library Volunteer and great recreational reader, Pam Wolken, recently read two plant-themed books and has kindly shared her experiences with you. Hopefully, after reading her reviews, you'll want to take the journey yourself. Both books are available through the Arboretum Library.
What a Plant Knows; A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz (2012)
On a tour of Costa Rica, the naturalist-guide pointed out an avocado tree, explaining that it produced meaty fruit with small pits early in the season to attract birds and animals to it. It would become their preferred tree and, like loyal shoppers everywhere, they would return to it. Later in the season, the trees' fruit showed much bigger pits which had better success of growing wherever the critters dropped them. This begs the question of how and what the tree "understands" (or "cares") about reproductive success.
In "What a Plant Knows; A Field Guide to the Senses," Daniel Chamovitz addresses the very issue of plant "behavior" beginning with the lack of plant-based vocabulary to explain stimulus response. Describing the symptoms is easier: plants bend toward light and other factors. Looking at the how and why and DNA of plants is at the core of this delightfully readable account.
Chamovitz spares no science in delving into plant senses of sight, smell, touch (feelings of being touched, actually), hearing, location awareness and some memory sense. Without recognizable sensing organs, plants still possess analogs of an eye's rods and cones to react to colors as well as intensity of light.
Hearing is a bit more of a problem since decades of experimentation of playing music for plants has no clear evidence of a stimulus response, much less a preference by plants (although strong preferences among some observers). Harmonics at frequencies not detectable by humans may effect plant systems, however. Plants are shameless at using scent to attract pollinators, and at the same time have been found to emit and react to aroma-causing molecules as warning of harm such as an injury or infestation. One of the best-known is using ethylene to stimulate ripening, which a tree will do in its own, as a fruit ripens it emits ethylene to signal its brethren to all ripen together.
The "shy virgin" plant will curl when touched, and many others will in various ways record an experience of being touched and use it in future situations. As for awareness of location, since plants are rooted in place with limited options for location changes, they do possess analogs of a human inner ear's otoliths to sense up from down - gravity detectors. The trendy up-side-down plants simply react as they are suppose to and the roots grow "down" within the vessel while the emerging shoots eventually turn upwards.
But before the one ascribes plants with sentience or tries to define a vegetal intelligence, Chamovitz is quick to point out that as far as has been determined plants have no emotional values assigned to what they perceive: a plant will react to having a leaf stabbed or root amputated, but not by saying "ouch." Plants are much more neuro-sophisticated than they have been given credit for in the past, and yet seem to form no recognizable emotional bonds with each other as individuals.
This is a "must read."
The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf (2008)
Tulip mania in the Netherlands notwithstanding, the British maintain a national identity as world-renowned plant and garden lovers. Exploration and settlement of the western hemisphere, along with trade with the Pacific rim of Asia and Australia was a brand new candy store opening on Christmas for English botanists. Andrea Wulf explores "The Brother Gardeners" beginning with the work of Thomas Fairchild. In 1716, Fairchild used a feather to cross-pollinate a sweet william with a carnation, thus demonstrating that plants reproduce sexually like animals. The act of intervention had Fairchild living "in fear of God's wrath for the rest of his life" and explaining the resulting hybrid as a natural accident.
With the stage set to adapt plants from all over the world to live in Britain outside of hothouses, Peter Colinson, a London cloth merchant and avid botany fan, established a plant trade relationship with farmer John Bartram near Philadelphia. Theirs was a lively exchange for many years. Then Philip Miller published the Gardeners Dictionary and the democratization of botany, horticulture and gardening was launched. Buyers, sellers, suppliers and propagators could share a common vocabulary describing plants. This lively romp through the eighteenth century world of plants was revolutionized by Carl Linnaeus who furthered the sexual identities of plants with a system of naming conventions to categorize plants unambiguously. The stage was set for Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander and others to bring plants from around the world to Britain, and offer them back again for gardens royal and common. The images of plants in their native habitats reformed garden styles from the stiff organizations known in Europe to a more flowing, natural appearance.
Gardening became a passion in reach of all: democratized, homogenized, and practicable in most homes. Of all the books in all the world to read in a finite lifetime, this one is worth reading twice.
June 09, 2012
News from the Library
Sara Lind, a wonderful intern from the Library School at Stockholm University, created a new online exhibit for the Arboretum Library using images from the Rare Book Room.
This exhibit is one way to see some of the items in the Rare Book Room. If you are interested in seeing items in person, I’m happy to make an appointment with you to share the treasures in person.
Here are the new titles added to the Arboretum Library during January through May of 2012:
10 new children’s books, 41 new articles I thought you might be interested in and 304 “new” books.
My favorite new book in the main collection is Bamboo Fences.
It is another one that made me swoon. Many of the landscape architecture and garden design around the world books, including Bamboo Fences, came from the Arboretum Foundation’s former board president, Burks L. Hamner. We are so grateful for the gift and as I told him, he filled important gaps in our landscape architecture section. The American Society of Landscape Architecture magazine had just written about the most influential books in the profession earlier this year and Mr. Hamner’s donation quickly filled the gaps and got them off the Arboretum Library’s wishlist. The number 304 is really just a taste of the new items that have been added to the online catalog; the ones I thought would really grab your attention. My volunteers and interns added 1012 titles to the catalog between January and the end of May. Browse away. Significant progress has been made in adding non-current magazine titles, uncataloged older books and transferring items from the old, made-up, non-online, classification system. Total number of titles now in the online catalog is 13,155. I’m guessing we have at least 10,000 more to go.
I can’t just have one favorite children’s book. My first favorite is a Tongva legend about the constellation Pleides called A Story of Seven Sisters.
This book came in the mail one day as an anonymous donation from the Children’s Book Wish List. As I was expressing my delight, my wonderful book repair volunteer, Carl Nicola, confessed that it was his doing. Thank you, Carl.
Wiggle and Waggle is my other favorite. Beginning readers are tough books to make fun to read for both the beginning reader and the adult looking over their shoulder. This one succeeds with humor and verve and tells a story of worms gardening too!
And the new articles list. I can’t pick a favorite there, because I gleaned them all as favorites to present to you as worthy of getting off Facebook, blogs, out of the MSN News, LOL Cats or whatever online sight you are fixated with and for you to run down to the Arboretum Library to see what good, old-fashioned journalism has to offer in the gardening, landscape architecture, and botany fields. Believe me it’s still really good and worth walking away from the computer for. I can even send you the article remotely if you can’t get to the Library.
Our next Reading the Western Landscape Book Group meeting is coming up on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 7:00 p.m. in the Arboretum Library. We will be discussing:
You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up by Richard Hallas [pseudonym for Eric Knight]; New York: R.M. McBride, 1938.
"[…]for many noir aficionados, [this book] remains one of the most evocative and subversive novels of its time. […]The book does read like James Cain filtered through Thomas Pynchon. Although Knight's first person narrative begins in typical tough-guy fashion, with Dick Dempsey, an Oklahoma-born AWOL Marine hopping a freight in Texas for Southern California in pursuit of his wife and son, it soon moves off in another, wilder direction — more like a noir Alice in Lotus Land than a cool and conventional hardboiled novel.” — Woody Haut , Los Angeles Review of Books
Tell your friends!
The Bookworms story time themes and dates are below:
The story time is recommended for children ages 3-8.
This is a free program for members and free with admission for non-members.
Scales and Shells
Wednesdays, June 6 & 20, 10 am
Saturday, June 9, 2 pm
It Can Come Out of the Sky: Water Conservation
Wednesday, July 18; 10 am
Saturday, July 21; 2 pm
In the Shade: Looking at Trees
Wednesdays, August 1 & 15; 10 am
Saturday, August 18; 2 pm
Lotsa’ Arboretum Critters
Wednesdays, September 5 & 19; 10 am
Saturday, September 15; 2 pm
Hard, Fall Fruits: Those Seeds and Pods
Wednesdays October 3 & 17; 10 am
Saturday, October 13; 2 pm
Falling Now: All About Leaves
Wednesday, November 7; 10 am
Saturday, November 10; 2 pm
Not the Peacocks: Our Other Birds
Wednesdays, December 5 & 19, 10 am
Saturday, December 8; 2 pm
The Arboretum Library hours are:
Open Tuesday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Open Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Open Sundays, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Come visit!
We are a circulating library to Arboretum staff and members. The circulation period for books is 3 weeks with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item. You can renew by e-mail, phone or in person. The circulation period for current magazines is 3 days with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item.
Our Botanical Information Consultant (for plant advice) is available Tuesday-Saturday, Frank.McDonough@Arboretum.org, or 626-821-3239.
For up to the minute Library News, check us out on the Arboretum’s Facebook Page.
excerpts from The North West London Blues by Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books Blog. In defense of bookstores and libraries…
“Giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted.
[...]Smart books, strange books, books about the country they came from, or the one that they’re in. Children’s books with children in them that look at least a bit like the children who are reading them. Radical books. Classical books. Weird books. Popular books. She reads a lot, she has recommendations.”
Happy reading! Hope to see you soon! Susan Eubank, Arboretum Librarian, Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org, or 626-821-3213.
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