Understanding Flowers & Flowering: An Integrated Approach

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  • 1 Professor of Horticulture Western Illinois University Macomb

Understanding Flowers & Flowering: An Integrated Approach. Beverly Glover. 2007. Oxford University Press, New York. 256 pages, with illustrations. $75, Softcover. ISBN-13: 978-0-19-856596-3. ISBN-10: 0198565968

This book covers the latest research in molecular studies of flowering in all its aspects. From floral induction to development of floral organs, to flower color and floral organ morphology, the genetic types and gene expression are explained in detail via a thorough review of the research literature. The diagrams and illustrations are very helpful in providing complex concepts in a simplified, easy-to-understand format.

A history of flower induction and flower development is provided at the beginning of the book. The origin of flowering, fossil evidence, and evolutionary models are presented. The second chapter provides a historical context for the study and understanding of flowering by examining the development of floral organs as well as the transition from the vegetative state to the flowering state. The theory of florigen is addressed in this chapter.

In following chapters, the molecular mechanisms of flowering are examined. Methods of floral induction and inhibition of flowering are discussed. Photoperiod and vernalization are reviewed thoroughly. Discussion of the development of flowers follows in the next five chapters. The subject of self-incompatibility occupies most of a chapter, along with other forms of prevention of self-fertilization. Four chapters are devoted to how and why floral forms vary. Pollen vectors are discussed, as is plant pigmentation, floral shape and size, and inflorescence development. Pollinators and their influence on floral form are discussed in the final three chapters. The topics covered include what bees and birds see, the effect of floral scent on pollinators, the perception of sweetness of nectar, and so on. All of the references are listed at the back of the book, covering 21 pages.

Throughout the book flowering is presented from an evolutionary, biological, and molecular perspective. Each topic is given a historical context, and discussion then progresses to the most recent research. The author is thorough in her coverage, a reflection of her scientific interests in the molecular genetics of plant development and how floral features have evolved to enhance their attractiveness to pollinators. All of this information comprises a valuable treatise on the topic of flowering that is recommended reading for any student of this subject. The book would prove particularly useful to the graduate student interested in flowering and possibly could serve as a textbook or supplemental reading in a floral biology or closely related course. In addition to 36 line drawings there are 10 black and white photos and 26 color plates.

The writing is not for the uninitiated, as it uses, by necessity, many scientific terms and involves complex discussion of gene activity, using abbreviated forms for genes. However, each term is defined or explained within the text, so reading this book does not require the otherwise informed reader to look up terms with which they are not familiar. This necessity may be the case, for example, where evolutionary biology terms are encountered by the plant physiologist, who may not have had training in evolutionary biology.

While reading the book in its entirety would provide the reader with a thorough understanding of floral biology, it is not necessary to read it this way. For example, if one is interested only in floral induction and the development of flowers but not in the interaction with pollinators, one can read only the chapters of interest and have a complete understanding of the topic. The book also could be used this way in a course that focuses on one or the other area. Nevertheless, a reader who is truly interested in flowering would probably end up reading the book in its entirety. As a review of the literature, this book would be a valued addition to any library or book collection of the plant sciences.

Marietta Loehrlein Professor of Horticulture Western Illinois University Macomb

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