Review: Botany For Gardeners by Brian Capon

In Botany For Gardeners, A former professor of botany explains the life of plants as it relates to gardeners in simple, clear terms.

The secret life of plants fascinates me.

botany for gardeners book cover image

I’ve always been amazed at the power of the seed: a mighty Oak tree grows from a small acorn buried by a squirrel; a tiny Morning Glory seed becomes a 12 foot vine; flowers left undisturbed seed every fall and eventually colonize vast swaths of open land.

Brian Capon, former professor of botany at California State University, explains the life of plants simply enough in Botany For Gardeners that anyone with a middle school science education will understand it. The book is packed with excellent photographs and illustrations which help to illuminate the material and make it less intimidating for those who never took a botany class.

Did you ever wonder:

  • Why and how the leaves of a plant follow the arc of the sun?
  • What those really fine hairs on certain plant stems are for?
  • How the rings in the wood of a tree are formed?
  • Why pruning the tip of a branch forces shoots from the side of a branch?
  • Why certain plants sheds their leaves in the fall?

Capon answers those questions and many more. At various points in the book, Capon explains how completely dependent human life is on the plant kingdom. From the biosphere comes the paper to write our notes and print our books; the lumber to build our homes and ships; the purification of the air we breathe; fibers to make our clothing; elements to create our medicine; and of course, the plant kingdom furnishes much of our food.


“Out  of the vast array of plants that populate our planet, only about 2000 species are estimated to have been used by humans as food. Of these, forty species are listed among today’s major food sources; and of these, a mere fifteen species are considered THE (author’s emphasis) plants upon which the human race completely depends.”


If we understand the mechanisms by which our plants endure, we better understand the reasons they may or may not flourish in our gardens and on our farms. Botany For Gardeners should definitely be in ever gardener’s reference library.

 FTC Disclosure: book purchased for review

Order on Amazon:  Botany for Gardeners: Third Edition

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About Todd Heft

Todd Heft is an organic gardener and freelance garden writer who lives in the Lehigh Valley, PA and has gardened for most of his life. When he isn't writing or reading about organic gardening, he's gardening. His first book, "Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden" is available on Amazon now. Google

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