I often quote the last paragraph of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species: “It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds … and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.” The final sentence, with the only use of the word evolved or evolution in the book, ends “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” This paragraph, one of the most beautiful ever written in English, summarizes the aims of most of my work.
In a new Perspective, William (Ned) E Friedman and Annals of Botany Editor Pamela K Diggle have studied the early origin of comparative plant developmental morphology from its inception in the eighteenth century, and show how Darwin was the first to discover the developmental basis for evolution of plant form. Strongly recommended for anybody interested in the evolution of our plant research subject! http://dx.doi.org/10.1105/tpc.111.084244