Dr. Sean Graham is responsible for today’s entry (in more ways than one!). Thank you! Sean writes:
Today we have a very special photo of the day — the front cover of this month’s issue of the journal American Journal of Botany, which celebrates the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. This special issue was co-edited by myself (Associate Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Land & Food Systems and the Department of Botany, and Research Director at the UBC Botanical Garden), Dr. Ruth Stockey (University of Alberta) and Sir Peter Crane (University of Chicago).
In addition to the picture of Darwin himself (about which he said: “I look a very venerable, acute, melancholy old dog; whether I really look so I do not know”), the cover includes some pictures of some living and fossil plants taken from individual articles in the issue.
Charles Darwin is rightly famous for his contributions to the development of evolutionary biology (this year also sees the 150th anniversary of the official publication of his Origin of Species, a book that profoundly changed our understanding of the world that we live in). However, it is not so well known that Darwin was an avid botanist. He wrote seven influential books based on his observations of plants, including On the different forms of flowers on plants of the same species and Fertilization of orchids by insects.
Darwin was curious about the fossil record of flowering plants (angiosperms). He famously referred to their rapid origin and diversification in the fossil record as an “abominable mystery”. This issue of American Journal of Botany explores different facets of the various mysteries surrounding the rise to dominance of the flowering plants in a geologically brief period of time, and includes cutting-edge scientific studies of flowering plants and their living and extinct relatives.
In addition to allowing us to use the images, the American Journal of Botany has kindly provided free access to all of the articles in this issue, right up until the anniversary of Darwin’s birth (Feb 12th, 2009). The articles, on topics ranging from the history of science to ecology, can be downloaded as individual pdf files and are readable in most web browsers.
Check out individual articles in the issue for details on the different images used in the cover plate. Enjoy the treasure hunt!
Credits: Oil painting of Darwin by Walter William Ouless, etching by Paul Aldophe Rajon, 1875, from the collection of Dr William (Ned) Friedman, University of Colorado. Other photographs: Individual authors in the special issue. The digital image of portion of Darwin’s letter to the English botanist Joseph Hooker is courtesy of the Cambridge University Library (provenance: Cambridge University Library DAR 95: 485-488). A portion reads: “I have just read Ball’s essay. It is pretty bold. The rapid development, as far as we can judge, of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery”.