184 pages, 165 colour photos
Confucius called them the "king of fragrant plants," and John Ruskin condemned them as "prurient apparitions." Across the centuries, orchids have captivated us with their elaborate exoticism, their powerful perfumes, and their sublime seductiveness.
But the disquieting beauty of orchids is an unplanned marvel of evolution, and the story of orchids is as captivating as any novel. As acclaimed writer Michael Pollan and National Geographic photographer Christian Ziegler spin tales of orchid conquest in "Deceptive Beauties: The World of Wild Orchids", we learn how these flowers forests to the Arctic, from semi deserts to rocky mountainsides; how their shapes, colors, and scents are, as Darwin put it, "beautiful contrivances" meant to dupe pollinating male insects in the strangest ways. What other flowers, after all, can mimic the pheromones and even appearance of female insects, so much so that some male bees prefer sex with the orchids over sex with their own kind?
And insects aren't the only ones to fall for the orchids' charms. Since the "orchidelirium" of the Victorian era, humans have braved the wilds to search them out and devoted copious amounts of time and money propagating and hybridizing, nurturing and simply gazing at them. This astonishing book features over 150 unprecedented color photographs taken by Christian Ziegler himself as he trekked through wilderness on five continents to capture the diversity and magnificence of orchids in their natural habitats. His intimate and astonishing images allow us to appreciate up close nature's most intoxicating and deceptive beauties.
The moment that the orchid stumbled upon one of the keys to human desire and used it to unlock our hearts, it conquered a whole new world-our world-and enlisted a vast new crew of credulous animals more than happy to do its bidding. Let's face it: we're all orchid dupes now.
- Michael Pollan, from the Introduction
"Orchid flowers have long been understood to be ridiculously fascinating, and this book shows just that, gorgeously. They certainly merit the 'Oh my' reputation they have acquired over the centuries. But, the problem for us mere mortals is that even if most lucky, we only bump into one in the wild every now and then. And here you have many of their kinds all at once, as though you were incredibly lucky in the forest, though of course there is no place or date on earth when you can see them like this. This new look is a fantastic and fantasmatic companion for any day when you are lucky enough to encounter one of these flowers, so unique as to turn any flower show into oatmeal."
- Dan Janzen, Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania
1. Adaptation 34
2. Diversity 94
3. Pollination 136
Species Index 180
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Christian Ziegler is a biologist-turned-photographer specializing in tropical natural history. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Magazine, GEO, and Smithsonian, among others. He is an associate for communication with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation photographers.