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The Botany of Desire Summary

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The Botany of Desire PDFA Plant’s-Eye View of the World

We walk around trees and plants, or we line our windows with potted flowers not giving much thought about their past and our role in their survival.

In today’s summary of “The Botany of Desire,” we will change that and show you the real power of plants.

Who Should Read “The Botany of Desire” and Why?

Even in school, you have probably been taught about the ways insects spread pollen enabling plants to reproduce.

However, what they did not teach you is the role people have and how they help plants.

“The Botany of Desire” tackles the history of plants and how they have used their “powers” to appeal to basic human desires and reproduce and spread all around the world.

We recommend it to all readers interested in biology, those that use substances such as marijuana and want to understand the biological root of its power, and other people that believe that plants are just things that they can use as they like.

About Michael Pollan

Michael PollanMichael Pollan is an author who teaches journalism at the UC Berkeley. He is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” as well.

“The Botany of Desire PDF Summary”

Whenever we think of ourselves as humans, we think of ourselves as subjects or the ones that can influence everything. We believe that the world exists to serve us and our purposes, along with all other creatures like plants and animals.

However, is that the case?

Isn’t it possible that plants are the subjects that make us act in ways they want us to?

You must think we are talking nonsense, but just think about it:

Insects go to plants to use their nectar for food. However, in this relationship, the flower is the one in charge, using its smell to attract the insect and make it spread its seed.

Isn’t it the same for humans as well?

Plans appeal to our basic needs: the need for food, so we are the ones who need them to satisfy our hunger.

Plants can influence humans using four tactics: beauty, sweetness, intoxication, and control, which all appear to the four basic needs of humans.

Plants needed to develop such abilities because they are immobile, and are not able to reproduce themselves.

For example, apples appeal to humans with their taste and flavor. But it is normal, you say, since people need food, and they can eat apples.

However, flowers are not delicious, and people do not crave them, so what could make them so special?

Well, humans love beautiful things. And flowers are extremely beautiful.

Interestingly, humans considering flowers as beautiful is so natural, that scientists consider people indifferent to flowers as clinically depressed.

There were even times when humans went crazy over the appeal of flowers.

In the 17th century, the tulip bubble, otherwise known as tulipmania almost destroyed the economy in Holland. During that time a mere bulb of Semper Augustus tulip was priced the same as the most expensive house in Amsterdam.

So, even history shows that human’s desire for beauty is strong, and sometimes even goes beyond reason.

And yet, there are even more desires that humans have, which plants can appeal to.

Let’s think about the forbidden “fruit” for a while.

Even nowadays we have a forbidden plant like that: marijuana.

Yet, so many people continue using it and being drawn by it.


Well, it is all part of who we are as human.

Even little kids turn around in circles and enjoy getting dizzy.

This is because all people have an inner desire of reaching an altered state of consciousness.

Plants have the power to help people achieve such states.

Finally, there is the desire for control, which is satisfied by no other plant but the potato.

Yes, the potato!

It is not a boring staple food as you may consider it to be.

In fact, before the potato was introduced to humans, many people were starving, especially in northern Europe.

However, when the potato entered the households, people could satisfy their nutritional needs with just potatoes and milk.

After a while, people wished to control the potato by genetically modifying it.

Key Lessons from “The Botany of Desire”

1.      Plants Use Humans and Animals to Reproduce
2.      The Sweet Appeal of Plants
3.      The Human Need for Intoxication

Plants Use Humans and Animals to Reproduce

Plants cannot move, and yet they need to find a way to reproduce.

That is why they are using their powers like beauty and smell to appeal to animals and humans and use them to spread their seeds.

The Sweet Appeal of Plants

The apple is one of the fruits that have spread all across America because of its sweetness and taste.

Many other plants are using their taste and flavor to appeal to the basic human need – the need for food, and as a result, spread around and continue existing on the planet.

Apart from taste, there are also other needs people feel, like for example the desire for beauty, which plants can also satisfy.

The Human Need for Intoxication

People are wired to enjoy altered states of mind, and some plants, like cannabis, satisfy this desire. That is why even though some plants are considered as forbidden, continue to exist and to be consumed.

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“The Botany of Desire” Quotes

Design in nature is but a concatenation of accidents, culled by natural selection until the result is so beautiful or effective as to seem a miracle of purpose. Click To Tweet For it is only by forgetting that we ever really drop the thread of time and approach the experience of living in the present moment, so elusive in ordinary hours. Click To Tweet It has become much harder, in the past century, to tell where the garden leaves off and pure nature begins. Click To Tweet Memory is the enemy of wonder. Click To Tweet People who smoked cannabis were Other, and the cannabis they smoked threatened to let their Otherness loose in the land. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“The Botany of Desire” will teach readers about the power of plants, and make them look beyond their notions that plants are just passive, helpless objects that humans can use as they like.

This book argues that plants are actually the ones that use their powers to appeal to people and animals and spread their seeds.

The only problem we found with this book is the title, which may be a bit misleading: readers may expect to read about the effect plants have on physical and sexual desires.

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