Zimmerman draws from her experience as an evolutionary biologist for this study of the past and future of women scientists in general and of botany in particular. With growing threats to biodiversity and some 90,000 unidentified specimens in the NY Botanical Garden alone, the need for botanists Is acute, yet fewer are being trained in this exacting—and unflashy—discipline. Meanwhile, women, especially mothers, are denied the positions and funding required to advance, as Zimmerman found in her PhD. and post-doc work. Eventually, painfully, Zimmerman left research for writing, a move that enabled her to open the wonders of plants to general readers—as she does beautifully here, recounting the history of herbaria, the methodology of taxonomy, the evolution of flowers from leaves, and much more, all graced with her detailed drawings of members of the dilleniaceae family.
The notion of plant “behavior”--let alone intelligence--has long drawn scientific skepticism. But what else would you call it when sunflowers that overshadow other plants never shade their own kind, or when sagebrush summons the one kind of wasp that preys on the caterpillar eating its leaves, or when a flower blooms early to take advantage of early arriving bees? Then there’s the boquila trifoliata, a vine that can morph into any plant it grows near. Following researchers worldwide, Schlanger reports on cutting edge work showing plants can identify relatives, talk to one another, recall, and pass down experiences. That they can hear, taste, smell, and respond to what they sense. How do they do all this? Whether it’s a range of chemical reactions, the result of a biome of micro-organisms, interactions with the environment or all of the above, the questions are changing how we look not just at vegetation but at all life.
Perhaps the most common complaint about deer is that there are “too many,” but how many should there be? Few people realize that the North American deer population was all but wiped out by the end of the 19th century, so the herds currently bedeviling cities and suburbs aren’t the product of a long natural habitation but were put there deliberately by—us. This is just one of innumerable lenses Howsare turns on the human-deer relationship in this probing, wide-ranging, and timely book. She traces our interactions with deer through myths, history, and art—from buckskin to Bambi; follows today’s hunters and learns how trophies are scored; examines the pros, cons, and means of culling “excess” deer”; counts roadkill and watches what happens to it—all while trying to make sense of our dual instinct both to cherish deer and kill them.