Botanist and author, Chris Throgoods takes readers on a journey through the history of plants from algae to flowering plants, and shows how plants slowly changed from tiny organisms composed of one cell to large plants with roots, stems, leaves and flowers. After introducing the concepts of geologic time and the family tree of plants, he describes the unique characteristics of each major group of plants: algae, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, horned worts), lycopods (first vascular plants), ferns, horsetails, Ginkgo and its relatives, cycads, conifers, and several different groups of flowering plants. He gives fascinating details about both extinct and extant species in each group, along with a pronunciation guide for the name, time when the plant was alive, and the size. For example, the entry for Nepenthes (Nep-enth-eez), tells us that the plant is alive today, and has leafy pitchers about 8″ long where bats hide from predators and poop in the pitchers. The bat manure provides nutrients that help the plant survival in poor soil. Interesting plant!

The many examples of unique plants are a wonderful introduction to the diversity of the plant world and are wound together with their importance to man. Throgood points out the dangers the biosphere faces and how man’s survival is linked to that of plants, making a plea for the protection of the plants and their habitats world wide. A two page spread suggesting plant related activities concludes the book.

Written for children aged 7-12, When Plants Took Over the Planet has no narrative but is packed with facts that can be enjoyed as interesting tidbits rather than as part of a story. The bold and colorful pictures add a lot to the text and may keep young children engaged but I fear that the target audience may not appreciate what the text has to offer even if a parent is reading the book out loud. The small, light font may add to the problems and deter some adults from volunteering to read. Too bad, because the contents of the book is outstanding. Perhaps the book would be most enjoyed by a budding scientist who loves science and the natural world.

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