June 7, 2017 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
3001 Plant and Environmental Sciences building, UC Davis campus
Wendy Silk

flora unveiled

Unfortunately, this  book lecture has been cancelled. We will keep you informed if a new date is scheduled. We apologize for the inconvenience.

LOCATION: 3001 Plant and Environmental Sciences building

Join UC Santa Cruz professors emeriti Lincoln Taiz & Lee Taiz for a lecture on their new book Flora Unveiled:  The discovery and denial of sex in plants. Their work has been praised as a rich addition to the history of science as well as a compelling look at gender bias in the study of science.  The talk is co-sponsored by UC Davis Plant Sciences and the UC Davis Arboretum & Public  Garden.


Sex in animals has been known for at least ten thousand years, but sex in plants wasn’t discovered until the late 17th century. Even after its discovery, the “sexual theory” of plants continued to be debated and, in some cases, lampooned for another 150 years, pitting the “sexualists” against the “asexualists”.  Why did it take so long to discover plant sex, and why was the idea considered disgusting by many people? Flora Unveiled is a “deep history” of perceptions about plant gender and sexuality, beginning in the Ice Age and ending in the middle of the nineteenth century, with the elucidation of the complete plant life cycle. We propose that an ancient  gender bias that plants are female (a “one-sex model”) prevented the discovery of plant sex and delayed its acceptance. The book explores the various sources of this gender bias, beginning with women’s role as gatherers, crop domesticators, and the first farmers. In the myths and religions of the Bronze and Iron Ages, female deities were strongly identified with flowers, trees, and agricultural abundance, and during Middle Ages and Renaissance, this tradition was assimilated into Christianity in the person of Mary. The one-sex model of plants continued into the Early Modern Period, and experienced a resurgence during the eighteenth century Enlightenment and again in the nineteenth century Romantic movement. Not until Wilhelm Hofmeister demonstrated the universality of sex in the plant kingdom was the controversy over plant sex finally laid to rest.


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