Mutants in our Midst: Darwin, Horticulture, and Evolution

MON, JAN 12, 2015

Although often overlooked as such, many of the horticultural varieties that we grow in gardens are premier examples of the ongoing process of evolution: random mutations that lead, on the rarest of occasions, to novel and desirable biological characteristics. Throughout his life, Charles Darwin (as well as other nineteenth century evolutionists) looked to the world of horticulture and plant domestication to gain critical insights into the generation of variation and the process of natural selection that underlie evolutionary change. Come see how nineteenth century horticulture played a central role in laying the foundations for the discovery of the fact of evolution as well as the process of evolution. Professor Ned Friedman will argue that modern botanical gardens can and should become a leading force for the promotion of evolutionary thinking by highlighting the very kinds of mutations observed and described by Darwin as well as new examples of monstrosities and mutants that continue to be found in the Arboretum and other living collections around the world.

+ BIO: William (Ned) Friedman

Professor Ned Friedman is the Director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and an Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. His research program focuses on the organismic interfaces between developmental, phylogenetic and evolutionary biology. Remarkable recent advances in the study of the phylogenetic relationships of organisms have provided the raw materials for critical studies of character evolution in plants, animals, fungi, and all other forms of life. Armed with hypotheses of relationships among organisms, he seeks to explore how patterns of morphology, anatomy and cell biology have evolved through the modification of developmental processes.

Arnold Arboretum