The Surprising Map of Plants: A New Animation Shows How All the Different Plants Relate to Each Other

Are pinecones relat­ed to pineap­ples? This was the unex­pect­ed ques­tion with which my wife con­front­ed me as we woke up this morn­ing. As luck would have it, Dominic Wal­li­man has giv­en us an enter­tain­ing way to check: just a few days ago he released his Map of Plants, through which he gives a guid­ed tour in the video from his Youtube chan­nel Domain of Sci­ence. Here on Open Cul­ture, we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Wal­li­man’s maps of biol­o­gy, chem­istry, med­i­cine, quan­tum physics, quan­tum com­put­ing, and doom, all of which may seem more com­plex and daunt­ing than the rel­a­tive­ly famil­iar plant king­dom.

But if you com­pare the Map of Plants to Wal­li­man’s pre­vi­ous cre­ations, down­load­able from his Flickr account, you’ll find that it takes quite a dif­fer­ent shape — and, unsur­pris­ing­ly, a more organ­ic one.

It’s a help to any­one’s under­stand­ing that Wal­li­man shot sec­tions of his explana­to­ry video at the Roy­al Botan­ic Gar­dens, Kew, which affords him the abil­i­ty to illus­trate the species involved with not just his draw­ings, but also real-life spec­i­mens, start­ing at the bot­tom of the “evo­lu­tion­ary tree” with hum­ble algae. From there on, he works his way up to land plants and bryophytes (most­ly moss­es), vas­cu­lar plants and ferns, and then seed plants and gym­nosperms (like conifers and Gink­go).

It is in this sec­tion, about six and a half min­utes in, that Wal­li­man comes to pinecones, men­tion­ing — among oth­er notable char­ac­ter­is­tics — that they come in both male and female vari­eties. But he only reach­es pineap­ples six or so min­utes there­after, hav­ing passed through fun­gi, lichens, angiosperms, and flow­ers. Belong­ing to the mono­cots (or mono­cotyle­dons), a group that also includes lilies, orchids, and bananas, the pineap­ple sits just about on the exact oppo­site end of the Map of Plants from the pinecone. The sim­i­lar­i­ty of their names stems from sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry colonists in the new world encoun­ter­ing pineap­ples for the first time and regard­ing them as very large pinecones — an asso­ci­a­tion vis­i­bly refut­ed by Wal­li­man’s map, but for­ev­er pre­served in the lan­guage nev­er­the­less.

Relat­ed con­tent:

1,100 Del­i­cate Draw­ings of Root Sys­tems Reveals the Hid­den World of Plants

The New Herbal: A Mas­ter­piece of Renais­sance Botan­i­cal Illus­tra­tions Gets Repub­lished in a Beau­ti­ful 900-Page Book

Behold 900+ Mag­nif­i­cent Botan­i­cal Col­lages Cre­at­ed by a 72-Year-Old Wid­ow, Start­ing in 1772

Behold an Inter­ac­tive Online Edi­tion of Eliz­a­beth Twining’s Illus­tra­tions of the Nat­ur­al Orders of Plants (1868)

The Bio­di­ver­si­ty Her­itage Library Makes 150,000 High-Res Illus­tra­tions of the Nat­ur­al World Free to Down­load

Björk Takes You on a Jour­ney into the Vast King­dom of Mush­rooms with the New Doc­u­men­tary Fun­gi: Web of Life

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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