The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives

by Stephen Buchman, 2015

 This is an amazing book for the breadth of the information it provides on flowers.  The author, Stephen Buchman, a pollination ecologist and entomologist, covers the many aspects of flowers from their evolution, to their structure and sexuality, to the way they assist pollinators and vice versa, to how they feed humans (with food, spices, and medicines) and inspire us (through their floral scents and beauty in not only reality, but in myths, legends, art and literature).

Buchman expresses his hope for his book: “I want you to see and smell like a hungry bee and a hummingbird, but also like a plant breeder, flower farmer, importer of cut blooms, or a floral biologist.”  And you will do that through these five sections of the book:

PART 1:  Sexuality and Origins

PART 2:  Growing, Breeding, and Selling

PART 3:  Foods, Flavors, Scents

PART 4:  Flowers in Literature, Art and Myth

PART 5:  Flowers in the Service of Science and Medicine

The Reason for Flowers has several useful appendices full of both interesting facts and resources about flower statistics and wildflower conservation organizations. 

To give you an idea of what you may learn in the book, here are three examples:

In the first part, Sexuality and Origins, I learned not only about nectar and pollen, but also how essential oils and edible floral body tissue serve as food for pollinators.

In the second part, Growing, Breeding, and Selling, the author paints a fascinating picture of the movement in the Americas of floriculture from Florida south to Latin America.  I also learned about the Dutch Flower Center in Europe, and the recent establishment of a Flower Center in Dubai, United Arabic Emirates.  The relatively new trade in certified organic flowers is also discussed.

Foods, Flavors, Scents, in part three explores how complex the chemical composition of perfumes is today and examines the wide range of floral scents and fragrance molecules.

If you are fascinated by flowers, you will be fascinated by Stephen Buchman’s book as well.

Holly Sparrow, Headwaters Master Gardener