The Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire
Author Michael Pollan
Language English
Genre non-fiction
Publisher Random House
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 271
ISBN 0-375-50129-0
Preceded by A Place of My Own
Followed by The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World is a 2001 nonfiction book by journalist Michael Pollan. Pollan presents case studies that mirror four types of human desires that are reflected in the way that we selectively grow, breed, and genetically engineer our plants. The tulip, beauty; marijuana, intoxication; the apple, sweetness; and the potato, control.

The stories range from the true story of Johnny Appleseed to Pollan's first-hand research with sophisticated marijuana hybrids in Amsterdam to the paradigm-shifting possibilities of genetically engineered potatoes. Pollan also discusses the limitations of monoculture agriculture: specifically, the adoption in Ireland of a single breed of potato (the Irish Lumper) made the Irish vulnerable to a fungus to which it had no resistance, resulting in the Irish Potato Famine. The Peruvians from whom the Irish had gotten the potato grew hundreds of varieties, so their exposure to any given pest was slight.

On television

The book was used as the basis for The Botany of Desire, a two-hour program broadcast by PBS.[1][2]

Publication data

  • Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire (2001) Random House, hardcover: ISBN 0-375-50129-0, 2002 paperback: ISBN 0-375-76039-3


  1. Lloyd, Robert. "The Botany of Desire". Los Angeles Times. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
  2. "In Production". PBS International. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
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