THE PLANT HUNTER'S ATLAS

QUERCUS PUBLISHING, IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS KEW (2021)

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The Plant Hunter’s Atlas is a lavishly illustrated volume telling extraordinary tales of botanical discovery, introducing astounding new plants that have shaped empires, secured (and destroyed) economies, revolutionized medicine and advanced our understanding of science. Circling the globe from Australia’s Botany Bay to the Tibetan plateau, from the deserts of Southern Africa to the jungles of Brazil, this book presents an incredible cast of characters – dedicated researchers and reckless adventurers; physicians, prisoners, lovers and thieves. 

 

Here are tales of chance discoveries - of the world’s biggest flower and the world’s tallest tree. And here are extraordinary tales of courage and endurance. Meet dauntless Scots explorer David Douglas, walking  right across North America with an eagle on his wrist, before being gored to death by a bull. And dogged Ernest Wilson, who travelled 13,000 miles in search of a single tree, only to find it cut down. There are visionary figures like Alexander von Humboldt, grappling with a new understanding of science.  There are notorious characters like Captain Bligh, ill-fated commander of the Bounty. The book also introduces many lesser known plant hunters - intrepid women like 19th century travel writer Maria Graham and 17th century entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian – the first woman known to have made a living from science.  Above all, it seeks out, where it can, the unsung helpers and collaborators who helped more famous plant-hunters to their prizes, such as the Himalayan village headman Zhao Chengzhang, who was George Forrest’s chief collector for over 20 years. 

 

Beautifully illustrated with over 100 botanical artworks from the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this absorbing book tells the stories of how plants have travelled the world – from  Ancient Egypt right up to 21st century seed-banks and the new and endangered species being discovered every year.