Science journalist Pollan surveys the coevolution of plants and animals -- particularly humans -- through four examples: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. Each allows him to discuss a variety of historical issues and developments. Pollan uses apples as a way to describe grafting, animals' taste for sweetness, and the true man behind the legend of Johnny Appleseed. With tulips, he can study the desire for beauty, periods of mania over tulips in Turkey and Holland, and how flowers helped to make warm-blooded animals possible on Earth.
Marijuana initiates an exploration of plant toxins and poisons, human and animal desire for intoxication, and what the author claims is the foolish U.S. war on drugs. And finally, potatoes serve as a springboard to an examination of plant diseases and pests, genetic manipulation, and man's desire to control nature.
This report prepared by David Loftus