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Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the…

Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction

by Janet Marinelli

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805044159, Hardcover)

It comes as no surprise to anyone that human society has had a pernicious effect on native plant life. What is surprising is that plants fall prey not only to the mechanical effects of suburban expansion, but also to such seemingly harmless processes as the introduction of nonnative rivals to their eco-regions. Oddly, in the case of the seabeach amaranth, it was the well-meaning efforts of various New Jersey and Long Island waterfront communities to curtail beach erosion that fragmented this normally hardy plant's habitat, leaving it unable to propagate. It is now, for all practical purposes, extinct. Throughout North America, approximately one-third of native plant species are considered endangered.

Janet Marinelli's compelling history of the American landscape examines everything from the popular obsession with lawns to the sex life of plants. For example, much of the decline in plant diversity can be traced to the rise of asexual clones--one ubiquitous example is the Delicious apple--exacerbated by the American fondness for the neatly clipped garden, which discourages open pollination of the few remaining native plants. But Marinelli goes much deeper than mere statements of fact, using garden design as a metaphor that reveals changing social philosophies, from rationalist to romantic and back again, and sweeping Darwin, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Gaia hypothesis into the mix. The latter half of the book concentrates on the past few decades of gardening and what changes in techniques and style have brought to the larger ecological communities. Never have the possible implications of the simple act of planting been made quite so entertaining.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:41 -0400)

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