The Botany of Desire

Synopsis: Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism and a student of food, presents the history of four plants, each of which found a way to make itself essential to humans, thus ensuring widespread propagation. Apples, for sweetness; tulips, for beauty; marijuana, for pleasure; and, potatoes, for sustenance. Each has a story of discovery and adaptation; each has a symbiotic relationship with human civilization. The film tells these stories and examines these relationships.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Michael Schwarz, Edward Gray (co-director)
Production: PBS
  1 nomination.
120 min


They are four of

the most common plants we know.

We've always thought that we

controlled them.

But what if, in fact,

they have been shaping us?

We don't give nearly enough

credit to plants.

They've been working on us,

They've been using us,

for their own purposes.

Four plants that have

traveled the road to success,

By satisfying human desires.

The tulip,

By gratifying our desire for

a certain kind of beauty,

Has gotten us

To take it from its origins

in central asia

And disperse it

around the world.

Marijuana, by gratifying our

desire to change consciousness,

Has gotten people

to risk their lives,

Their freedom,

in order to

Grow more of it

and plant more of it.

The potato -- by gratifying

our desire for control,

Control over nature,

so that we can feed ourselves,

Has gotten itself

out of south america

And expanded its range

Far beyond where it was

500 years ago.

And the apple,

By gratifying our desire

for sweetness --

Begins in the forests

of kazakhstan

And is now

the universal fruit.

These are great winners

In the dance of domestication.

A look at nature

The way you've never

seen it before,

With best-selling author

michael pollan.

And this relationship

of the plants,

Learning how to gratify

our desires,

And our working for them

in exchange for this,

Is what I call

"the botany of desire."

It was that

very special week in may,

When the apple trees are in

spectacular bloom,

And they're just vibrating with

the attention of bees.

And I was planting potatoes,

Making my little rows,

And putting in my chunks,

And the bees were working

above me.

And it occurred to me --

You know, what did I have

in common with those bees?

And when you think about it,

Quite a bit.

The bee assumes

It's getting

the best of this deal

With the apple blossom.

It's breaking in,

It's getting the nectar.

And has no idea that it's

picked up this pollen

On the hairs of its thighs

And is transporting it

to another tree

In the garden

or down the street,

Or anywhere else.

So for the bee to think it's

in charge of this relationship

Is really just

a failure of bee imagination.

And I realized I had the same

failure of imagination.

I was working for these potatoes

in some sense.

I was planting them,

I was giving them

A little bit more habitat

than they had before.

And yet I thought I was kind of

calling the shots.

So that's when I had

this thought

That, wouldn't it be interesting

To look at our relationship to

domesticated plants

From the plant's point of view?

Of course, plants don't have

consciousness or intention,

But the act of using

our consciousness

To put ourselves

in their "roots,"

Or shoes, or whatever,

Helps us to see things

from their vantage point.

And when you do that,

Nature suddenly looks

very different.

We realize we're in

the web of nature,

Not standing outside it.

These plants are mirrors

In which we can see ourselves

in a slightly different way.

And as much as this is

a story about plants,

It's a story about human desire.

Good morning,

my name is brian,

Welcome to

poverty lane orchards.

First thing we're gonna do

Is we're gonna head up

into the orchard,

And when we get up there,

I wanna tell you a little bit

about the apples,

And the trees,

and how to pick apples.

For children

in new England,

It's an autumn ritual --

An apple picking expedition

to the local orchard.

Okay, when you guys

are picking the apples,

You want to pick out

nice ripe apples.

And the way to tell

the ripe ones is they're red.

But these children

might never have

Had a chance

to taste apples

Had the apple not found a way to

get us to do its bidding.

Thousands of years ago,

the apple put us to work --

Transporting its genes

From its native ground

in central asia

To the far corners

of the earth.

For a plant to do that,

It has to be awfully

enterprising, willing to adapt

To a great many

different environments,

Willing to experiment with

A great many different

forms and flavors.

Is there a really good red one

up there? What do you see?


it's a fruit iconic

And beloved and used in

a great many different ways.

But the apple has not

always been regarded as

The wholesome fruit

we think of today.

The apple tree

was the great evil plant,

Because people took these apples

and made hard cider,

Which was the main source

of alcohol

In rural america

for many, many years.

The strategy --

the evolutionary strategy

That got it from there

to here --

Involved producing

ever more sweetness.

Okay, here's cup four.

There you go.

If you think it tastes

bad or yucky,

I want you to give it to

oscar the grouch.

Oscar, okay.

So here's cup two.

And if tastes good, I want you

to give it to big bird,

Because he likes things

that taste good.

These children

are doing taste tests --

Part of research

being done on sweetness

At the monell chemical senses

center in philadelphia.

It specializes in the study of

taste and smell.

Good job!

You're doing great.

All right, so I'm going to

give you another one.

Some of the fundamental

things we've discovered are,

The desire for sweetness is

hardwired in human beings.

It's built-in, it's innate.

It's not because we feed babies

High levels of sweet

when they're young,

It's part of their biology.

Presumably, our response to

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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