Apples are desired for their sweetness. Marijuana is desired for its intoxicating powers. Potatoes are desired for the gardener's ability to control their growth. Tulips, though, are desired for their beauty alone. Pollan tells of their history in the world and how eventually the Dutch demand for them was so incredible that people paid exorbitant prices for tulip bulbs...or even pieces of paper that claimed a share. He waxes for several pages about the Queen of Night tulip on his desk, noting all its parts and how each functions. The tulip I photographed in spring has those same six petals (3 inner, 3 outer), the six stamens, the single style/pedestal, and the three lips on that style. Biological variations occur, of course.
The Botany of Desire taught me so much about plant history, a topic I admittedly would never have professed to enjoy. It is another book that makes me look at the world differently.