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The seedpod army

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  December 30, 2013 08:54 AM

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Last June I wrote about photographer Sabine Pearlman, who takes stunning cross-sectional photographs of ammunition casings. The images are powerful because they provide a precise, beautiful perspective on objects that are used to create such destruction.

So what, you might be wondering, is the opposite of an ammunition casing? It might be a seedpod. Photograph Anna Laurent, whose work is featured in the current issue of Harvard Magazine, takes close-up portraits of the many different kinds of structures that plants use to protect and disperse their seeds. Laurent, a native of Jamaica Plain and current resident of Los Angeles, has an exhibition called Dispersal running at the Arnold Arboretum through January 26th. The show features images of seedpods from places as far-flung as Hawaii and Iraq and as close to home as the Arboretum. As living creatures ourselves, we're naturally inclined to think well of seeds and seedpods. Laurent's images do testify to the many ingenious ways that life propagates itself, from the enticing pink petals of the Fleshy-flowered Spindletree to the hard, brown, barnacled enclosures of the Japanese magnolia. There's also something vaguely intimidating about the array of delivery mechanisms plants have at their disposal: The wispy seeds of the Empress Tree are the infantry, the thick golden folds of the Hawaiian wood rose are the artillery. Good luck trying to stop it all.

Dispersal runs at the Arnold Arboretum through January 26th. The exhibition will feature a closing reception, details to be announced soon.

Milkvetch (Astragalus fasciculifolius)
Collected: June 2011; near Jarmo, Iraqi Kurdistan

seedpod 1.jpg

Fleshy-flowered Spindletree (Euonymus carnosus)
Collected: October 2012; Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts

seedpod 2.jpg

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Collected: September 2011; Lotusland Garden in Montecito, California

seedpod 3.jpg

Images courtesy of Anna Laurent.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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