Looking at Flowers and Expecting Fruit


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG-13
Orchards are starting to bloom now that spring has arrived. Ornamental cherry trees are blossoming near the White House in Washington, DC. Their flowers are a reminder that fruit will hang on those trees later in the year. Jews traditionally mark this seasonal event with a blessing over the fruit trees. The prayer gives thanks for species that provide us with pleasure and sustenance as part of a divine plan.

Carl Linnaeus, a Christian naturalist from the 18th Century, also believed that each species was divinely created. A Berkeley website contains a biography of Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus sought to better understand divinity by studying organisms. A practical consideration lead him to devote much time to edible plants. He tried unsuccessfully to devise methods for growing crops in his native Sweden so that the Swedish economy could be more independent of the global economy. He is most known for developing a hierarchical classification system for the organisms he cataloged. His method of classifying plans caused a bit of controversy at the time.

Heavily reliant on the flowers of plants, Linnaeus’s botanical groups were rearranged generations later to reflect the evolutionary relationship between plants as revealed by the analysis of all their characteristics. However, the strongest criticism for the groupings came from their names. Linnaeus was aware that flowers are reproductive organs. He noticed that the male and female parts of flowers could come in different numbers, and generated names for his botanical groups based on the numbers of male and female parts. The classical roots he chose for these groups hinted at marriage styles that were taboo among monogamous Europeans.

The Berkeley article mentioned how Linnaeus articulated the anatomy of flowers in romantic prose. In 1729, he wrote, “The flowers’ leaves. . . serve as bridal beds which the Creator has so gloriously arranged, adorned with such noble bed curtains, and perfumed with so many soft scents that the bridegroom with his bride might there celebrate their nuptials with so much the greater solemnity. . .”. His critics didn’t want to read how fruit was formed anymore than they wanted to read about the causes of pregnancy.

Although Linnaeus did not discover better ways to grow crops in Sweden, his nomenclature for organisms facilitated communication between biologists, thereby contributing indirectly to centuries of biological discoveries, including breakthroughs in agricultural technology and reproductive health. A discussion of evolution or sex may be unsettling for the weak of heart, but clear uncensored communication is essential for the advancement of science. Humans have been planting crops and eating by the sweat of their brows for thousands of years. If we want to produce the most food per effort, innovators must be free to experiment in the field and on the page.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.