Most of us think of Darwin at work on The Beagle, taking inspiration for his theory of evolution from his travels in the Galapagos. But Darwin published his Origin of Species nearly thirty years after his voyages, and most of his labours in that time were focused on experimenting with and observing plants. He was particularly interested in carnivorous and climbing plants, and in pollination and the evolution of flowers.
Ken Thompson sees Darwin as a revolutionary botanist whose observations and theories are often only now being conﬁrmed by high-tech modern research. Like Darwin, Thompson is fascinated and amazed by the powers of plants – particularly their Triffid-like aspects of movement, hunting and ‘plant intelligence’.
This is a much-needed book that re-establishes Darwin as a pioneering botanist, whose close observations of plants were crucial to his theories of evolution.
Ken Thompson is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the science of gardening. He writes and lectures extensively and has written five gardening books, including Compost and No Nettles Required, as well as books on biodiversity (Do We Need Pandas?) and invasive species (Where Do Camels Belong?).
"[...] The writing style is both concise and informative, leavened with a sardonic humour throughout. The science is discussed clearly without getting bogged down in details or deviating from the main argument, and the technical information is carefully explained. Ken Thompson's Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants is an excellent read for amateurs and experts, and casts a delightful light on a fascinating man and an intriguing subject."
– Ellis O'Neill, The Biologist 66(6), December 2019
"Ken Thompson is passionate about Darwin and especially that his many investigations into plants are often overlooked. [...] Overall this is very easy to read and remarkably informative, both into Darwin's work and thinking, and his wonder at the botanical world [...]"
– Peter Thomas, The Niche (British Ecological Society magazine), June 2019
"In this quietly riveting study, plant biologist Ken Thompson reveals Charles Darwin as a botanical revolutionary"
"[It] illuminates how the Victorian scientist's groundbreaking studies on climbing and carnivorous forms of vegetation, including grape vines and the Venus flytrap, revolutionalised several branches of botany. This short book is a delightful introduction to these extraordinary plants and brings the natural science right up to date, while also offering insight into Darwin's pioneering work."
– Mark Cocker, New Statesman
"Engaging [...] a fascinating insight"
– Gardens Illustrated
"Lively and punchy [...] Thompson's arguments are powerful and his examples are fascinating"
– The Sunday Times
"Thompson makes his case in a lively, readable style [...] Better yet, he bolsters his argument with plenty of citations from the scientific literature, which adds welcome heft."
– New Scientist
"Fascinating, provocative [...] Ken Thompson presents a stimulating challenge to our perceptions of nature"
– George Monbiot