cover image The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World

The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World

Toby Musgrave. Ward Lock Limited., $29.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7063-7753-8

Ever wonder how flowers from all over the world ended up in the same modern gardens? The plant hunters are the answer: Sir Joseph Banks, ""the father of modern plant hunting,"" circled the globe with Captain Cook, bringing back rubescent evergreens from Tierra del Fuego and tall, ""swordlike, leathery"" New Zealand flax. From Kew Gardens in 18th-century London, Banks set up ""a systematic, worldwide plant hunting program"" that brought 7000 species of plants into habitats they would never have reached. Banks's prot g Francis Masson toted the belladona lily and the cycad from South Africa to London. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker introduced rhododendrons from the Himalayas, thereby shaping British gardening throughout the 1860s. And George Forrest endured civil war and mountain hardships in his treks across Yunnan, China, bringing back for his pains the spectacular scarlet Primula and a star-shaped gentian with the deep blue tint of outer space. The authors devote a chapter to each of these men, and five other admiring chapters to other explorers, showing what each famous plant hunter underwent to bring prize flora to Britain, and what effect each hunter's discoveries had on British landscaping and gardening. In the spirit of the Victorian amateur, this book doesn't address such questions as whether these exciting exotics damaged the ecosystems to which plant hunters brought them, or what these finds contributed to fields other than landscape gardening. It offers, instead, stories of daring explorers alongside beautiful pictures of plants and of the spectacular landscapes from which these men fetched back the stems and flowers that gardeners love so well. 90 color, 15 b&w illustrations. (May)