Book Review: “The Triumph of Seeds”

The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson

I’m just going to start off with this: Wow.. just wow. I had NO idea there could be so much information, speculation and history about something so small, something in which is all around us in many forms, something in which (as i eat my bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, flax and chia seeds in it..) we may unknowingly overlook everyday.


And this book “The Triumph of Seeds” by Thor Hanson will quickly take the ‘overlooking’ out of your day.

You will find that seeds are just as complicated, and fascinating as they may have once seemed simple and boring to you. I have thrown many seeds into dirt, between landscaping and gardening; but only now do I find myself looking a little closer at exactly what is occurring as they sprout. I find myself inspecting them before I plant them, even wondering how long they have sat dormant before I put them into the ground.

Did you know that “Some species persist in the soil for decades, sprouting only when the right combination of light, water and nutrients make conditions right for plant growth.” p.xxiv

Inside flap jacket of the book.
Inside flap jacket of the book.


As we all know, seeds travel. But the ways in which they travel are quite interesting. Take the coconut for example: Sure we know its a pain to open, and contains coconut water and the white flesh in which we consume after using a hammer and chisel to split it.. and as always, in movies, that random coconut can be seen floating by ‘just in time’ to save someone stranded from starving to death.

But did you ever wonder why a coconut is built like that?

“Once afloat, a coconut can remain viable for at least three months, riding winds and currents for journeys of hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles. In that time the endosperm continues to solidify, but enough coconut water remains to help the seed germinate when it finally washes up on some dry sandy backshore. With its liquid endosperm keeping things moist inside, and the rich, oily copra providing energy, a young coconut can grow for weeks on end without any outside inputs” p.43

Radish seeds in my garden
Radish seeds in my garden.

This book is one of my favorite types of literature. Non-fiction, that’s jam packed full of interesting information, but isn’t written like a monotonous textbook. So It keeps your gears turning and the facts flowing.

It discusses the evolution of beaks on birds in which have adapted to be able to open the seeds in which they prefer to eat, and even gets into discussing my favorite ‘seed’.. COFFEE! The book then moves onto inventions that came by way of studying seeds.

Have you ever walked through the woods and pulled a burr or sticker off your pants? Does it remind you of a certain product? Maybe.. velcro?! Seeds played a large part in many past discoveries, that until reading this book, seemed unrelated.

This book will make you cock your head and narrow your eyes in thought, the next time you find a suspicious plant sprouting off to the side of your lawn; where a bird or bear may have deposited it. And once you get into the subject of fruits and vegetables.. you may find yourself studying the hundreds of seeds covering the outside of that single strawberry next time you eat it.

Grow little radishes grow!
Grow little radishes grow!

This book isn’t all about the goodness of seeds, as it covered poisons and toxic edibles that were mistakenly ingested throughout history, so when it comes to seeds you have to take the good with the bad in a sense. But it sure is interesting!

Such as.. The Black Death:

“How did the illness move from China to India and the Middle east and all the way north to Scandinavia in a matter of years? The answer lies not in the rats, but in their diet. While black rats will eat almost anything, they thrive on grains of all types and travel with it wherever it goes. And while most fleas live only a matter of weeks, those found on rat fur can persist for a year or more, and their larvae have learned to eat…”

Yes you guessed it!


“..grain. So even on a long ship voyage, when all the plague-sick rats might die at sea, the fleas survived (with their offspring happily munching away in the hold), ready to infect new rats and people at every port of call.” p.30-31

As you can see this book covers a vast array of subjects all related in one way or another to one thing: seeds. I highly recommend this book to all my fellow non-fiction loving nerds, and if you happen to read it. Let me know what you thought!

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