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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

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The plant family tree

9 minutes

How our developing understanding of plants changed our knowledge of life itself

With some 7 million dried plant specimens, the herbarium at Kew Gardens in London is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Building on the Linnaean system, through Darwin to DNA, scientists there have traced the relationship between plant life-forms and the timeline of their development over the ages – from algae to mosses to flowers. While the plant family tree is thought to be 95 per cent complete, this short documentary reveals that continuing to study plants gives us an important framework for asking questions about how our ecosystems actually work.

Video by Lonelyleap

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

Essay/Biology
The minds of plants

From the memories of flowers to the sociability of trees, the cognitive capacities of our vegetal cousins are all around us

Laura Ruggles

Essay/Earth Science
Life goes deeper

The Earth is not a solid mass of rock: its hot, dark, fractured subsurface is home to weird and wonderful life forms

Gaetan Borgonie & Maggie Lau