When an acorn falls onto the ground in the autumn it comes to rest in a particular location. It may be eaten soon thereafter by a mouse. It may rot in the autumn rains. A squirrel might pick it up and carry it in its cheek to another part of the woods, dig a hole, and place it there. Even in this case the acorn’s fate is still open – whether the squirrel digs it out and feeds on it in the winter, whether it decomposes, or whether it germinates and grows into an oak sapling.

Before germination, the life of the plant is encapsulated in the protective sheath of the seed. This stage is life held ...


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