Eco-philosopher Thomas Berry contends that modern societies suffer from Earth autism that prevents us from communicating with anything other than our own kind. Sharman Apt Russell, who teaches writing at Western New Mexico University and at Antioch University in Los Angeles, observes: "Nature has never been silent for me. Nature whispers in my ear all the time, and it is the same thing over and over. It is not 'Love!' It is not 'Worship.' It is not 'Psst! Dig here!' Nature whispers, and sometimes shouts, 'Beauty, beauty, beauty, beauty!' "

Russell enthuses over the beauty of flowers by delving into their color and their perfumes. Over 250,000 species of plants produce a gigantic feast of flowers that grab our attention. No wonder we give them as gifts for holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. Flowers inspire us and incite in us large doses of fellow-feeling.

Russell ponders all the remarkable dimensions of pollination — "all that waving in the wind," as she calls it. She regards flowers as spiritual teachers that remind us of the fleetingness of time. Many are ephemeral like the flower of the cerus cactus.

Sadly enough, many flowers are going extinct. It is estimated that 25 percent of green plants will no longer be around to entice our wonder in 50 years. And natural flowers have rivals — genetically engineered plants such as blue roses. One thing remains unabated — the medicinal capacities of certain flowers. They are a healing balm to many.

This is a wonderful little book. Russell, pondering the incredible variety of flowers, writes: "This is pure spectacle, worthy of P.T. Barnum's greatest show on Earth." She's right and Anatomy of a Rose will draw out your delight for both the beauty and the bounty of flowers. They provide us with ample evidence of Earth's enduring marvels.