Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy

Eric Hansen, Author Pantheon Books $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-679-45141-9
In the same vein as Susan Orlean's Orchid Thief, this captivating tale is not so much about flowers as it is about obsession. In various chapters (some of which have appeared in Natural History magazine), Hansen (Stranger in the Forest; Motoring with Mohammed) examines different facets of the mysterious world of orchids, a universe of incredible subterfuge, erotic plant names and some very eccentric characters. He visits Borneo with two orchid growers and two Penan guides who are extremely puzzled about such enthusiasm over a flower that serves no medicinal or nutritive purpose. Hansen also interviews 84-year-old Eleanor Kerrigan, who in her Seattle basement greenhouse cultivates an illicit orchid collection worth $70,000. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has a strict policy about certain types of orchids, and many orchid growers and collectors, it turns out, operate on the wrong side of that policy, resulting in an underworld that, as the author notes, resembles the illegal drug trade. Hansen manages to talk to the secretive Henry Azadehdel (a cause c l bre in the orchid world since he was arrested for orchid smuggling in 1987) and travels to Turkey to taste orchid ice cream, which is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that after five years of research he has become as obsessed with his subjects as they are with their flowers (""Orchids were doing strange things to me""). The results are fully enjoyable. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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FORMATS
Compact Disc - 978-0-7531-1326-4
Book - 978-0-7531-1003-4
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-679-77183-8
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