Orchids fascinate. Parts of the orchid flower have shapes unlike any other flowering plant, and the sheer number of species means that their variety is seemingly endless, with an ability to interbreed and create ever more fantastical forms.
Extraordinary Orchids reveals some of the bizarre lifestyles and interactions that botanists have uncovered amongst different categories of orchids: the epiphytic orchids, the ground-dwelling ones, the insect-mimicking ones and those whose lifestyles are so closely bound to their interactions with insects and birds.
Many orchid common names refer to the shape-shifting forms of the orchid flower – the 'man-orchids' or 'monkeyorchids' are so called because of their resemblance to the primate form. Orchids lend themselves to depiction, and botanical artworks of them abound. Who could resist painting or drawing such odd shapes?
Sandra Knapp examines each category of orchid in turn and all are illustrated with stunning artwork from artists such as Ferdinand and Franz Bauer, Arthur Harry Church, Sydney Parkinson, Henry Fletcher Hance, John Russell Reeves, and images taken from James Bateman's The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala
Sandra Knapp is Merit Researcher and Head of the Plants Division at the Natural History Museum in London and also President of the Linnean Society. She has spent many years collecting plants in tropical Central and South America. She is a particular expert on the plant family Solanaceae, which includes such economically important species as the potato and tomato, and is the author of several books including Flora, Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon and The Gilded Canopy.