Wily Violets and Underground Orchids: Revelations of a Botanist

Peter Bernhardt, Author
Peter Bernhardt, Author William Morrow & Company $18.95 (255p) ISBN 978-0-688-08350-2
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
For nine years an ``expatriate botanist'' in South America and Australia, Bernhardt, now a botany instructor at St. Louis University, here shares a taste for botanical esoterica--with mixed results. His collection of essays, many published previously in magazines, enjoys the benefit but also bears the brunt of the author's somewhat arcane forays into ``orchidelirium'' and his unflagging, occasionally tiresome fascination with the pollination of exotic plant species, whether observed in the field or in the pages of Australian children's books (in one of these, ``the costumes of minor characters reflect flowering and fruiting fashions within a number of sclerophyll habitats''). Though capable of communicating the botanist's passion for natural wonders, as well as explaining how plants function, the author does not always choose to do so, assuming both a knowledge of and an interest in the mechanics of plant life that many readers will not possess. At his best, however, Bernhardt recounts his ``botanical romance'' with Kansas grasslands and describes bees who, as pollinators, ``appear to be comfortable only when they can visit a violet flower while standing on their heads.'' Photos not seen by PW. (June)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!