Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

The Botany of Desire:  The Apple

 Important Terms & Concepts  Define or describe the following.  Can you give an example? 

  1. coevolution
  2. domestication
  3. native
  4. naturalized
  5. introduced
  6. cultivated
  7. artifical selection
  8. natural selection


  1. Pollan argues that �flowers and spuds have manipulated human desires � conscious or otherwise � to help them be �fruitful�.� (p xv)   And he wonders, �Did I choose to plant these potatoes, or did the potato make me do it?� (p xv)  He further states that his book ��is as much about human desires that connect us to these plants as it is about the plants themselves.� (xvii) And, he sees �...plants instead as willing partners in an intimate and reciprocal relationship with us.�  What does he mean by all of this?  Do you agree?
  2. Pollan describes plants as �nature�s alchemists.�  Do you agree with this description?  Offer a hypothesis why might this have evolved? (xix)
  3. Recall the plant way of life?  Since plants are stationary they have had to evolve some strategies for a non-motile lifestyle.  Identify some strategies.
  4. �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.� (xxi)  Do you agree?
  5. Describe Johnny Appleseed.
  6. Explain why it is incorrect to call apples, �The American Fruit.�
  7. What does it mean that apples don�t �come true from seed?�
  8. What is hard cider?  How is it made?  What is applejack?
  9. Apple seeds contain a metabolic poison.  Identify this poison.  Why do they possess such chemicals?  How is the poison formed?  Why don�t the plants poison themselves?
  10. How are apples propagated?
  11. What is the scientific name of the wild apple? cultivated apple?
  12. Pollan described Johnny Appleseed as the �American Dionysus.�  Who was Dionysus?  What is the connection?  Do you agree?
  13. When the settlers arrived in North America, what sweeteners did they encounter?
  14. Do you agree that �sweetness is a force in evolution� (19) and �Could it be that sweetness is the prototype of all desire?�
  15. What is your favorite variety of apple?  Do a search and learn where this variety  originated.
  16. Have we always knows that �An apple a day keeps the doctor away?�
  17. Do you agree with Pollan�s argument that Catholics embraced the grape while Protestants the more wholesome apple?
  18. What is a germplasm bank?  Why is it important
  19. Who was Vavilov?  (53)
  20. Do you agree that apples are the �true democratic fruit?� (48)
  21. Were apples part of the �the Garden of Eden?�



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Last updated:  02/23/2005 � Copyright  by SG Saupe