The Botany of Desire

A Plant's-Eye View of the World


English language

Published by Bloomsbury.

3 stars (2 reviews)

A farmer cultivates genetically modified potatoes so that a customer at McDonald's half a world away can enjoy a long, golden french fry. A gardener plants tulip bulbs in the autumn and in the spring has a riotous patch of colour to admire. Two simple examples of how humans act on nature to get what we want. Or are they?

What if those potatoes and tulips have evolved to gratify certain human desires so that humans will help them multiply? What if, in other words, these plants are using us just as we use them?

In blending history, memoir and superb science writing, Pollan tells the story of four domesticated species - the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato. All four plants are integral to our everyday lives and Pollan demonstrates how each has thrived by satisfying one of humankind's most basic desires.

Weaving fascinating anecdote and accessible science, …

10 editions

Review of 'The Botany of Desire' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Pollan is undoubtedly a gifted writer. There is a a sort of lightness to his writing, even when he writes about heavy things (like Montsanto or the Irish Potato Famine). In Botany of Desire he examines the complex relationship between Man and 4 other classes of organisms: Apples, tulips, ganja and potatoes. He's a good tales-teller and it's never boring with him. To sum the experience of reading this book I would say that I enjoyed most of his ideas about gardening and co-evolution, pagan nature-worship and genetic engineering (even though some were not as brilliant as others), and that it's a great book for amateur botanists.

avatar for wrul

rated it

2 stars


  • Gardening
  • Nature
  • Human-plant relationships
  • Nonfiction
  • Plants and civilization
  • Ethnobotany
  • Nature, effect of human beings on