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Flora of Middle-Earth Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium

By: Walter S Judd(Author), Graham A Judd(Illustrator)
406 pages, 289 b/w illustrations
A book for the dedicated Tolkien fan, Flora of Middle-Earth is a tastefully illustrated and botanically sound account that shows the importance of plants in his stories.
Flora of Middle-Earth
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  • Flora of Middle-Earth ISBN: 9780190276317 Hardback Oct 2017 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £33.99
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About this book

Few settings in literature are as widely known or celebrated as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth. The natural landscape plays a major role in nearly all of Tolkien's major works, and readers have come to view the geography of this fictional universe as integral to understanding and enjoying Tolkien's works. And in laying out this continent, Tolkien paid special attention to its plant life; in total, over 160 plants are explicitly mentioned and described as a part of Middle-Earth. Nearly all of these plants are real species, and many of the fictional plants are based on scientifically grounded botanic principles. In Flora of Middle Earth: Plants of Tolkien's Legendarium, botanist Walter Judd gives a detailed species account of every plant found in Tolkien's universe, complete with the etymology of the plant's name, a discussion of its significance within Tolkien's work, a description of the plant's distribution and ecology, and an original hand-drawn illustration by artist Graham Judd in the style of a woodcut print. Among the over three-thousand vascular plants Tolkien would have seen in the British Isles, the authors show why Tolkien may have selected certain plants for inclusion in his universe over others, in terms of their botanic properties and traditional uses. The clear, comprehensive alphabetical listing of each species, along with the visual identification key of the plant drawings, adds to the reader's understanding and appreciation of the Tolkien canon.


Chapter 1 - Introduction: The Importance of Plants in J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium
Chapter 2 - Plant Communities of Middle-earth
Chapter 3 - The Diversity of Life, with a Focus on the Green Plants
Chapter 4 - Introduction to Plant Morphology - Learning the Language of Plant Descriptions
Chapter 5 - Identification of the Plants of Middle-earth
Chapter 6 - Telperion and Laurelin - The Two Trees of Valinor
Chapter 7 - The Plants of Middle-earth
Chapter 8 - A Note from the Illustrator

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Tastefully illustrated book for the fan
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 4 Jul 2019 Written for Hardback

    For all my reading of scientific books, I have a little secret (though judging by the number of books, it is actually not all that little): I am a huge fan of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and of books exploring his world in further detail. Despite Tolkien’s world being fictional, he populated it mostly with real plants. Retired plant systematist Walter Judd, also a huge fan, took it upon himself to write a flora with detailed species accounts of all the plants Tolkien mentions, with artist Graham Judd providing illustrations. The resulting Flora of Middle-Earth is a tastefully illustrated and botanically sound book, but who on (Middle) Earth will read this?

    I assume that most readers can skip this paragraph, but in the unlikely case you need an introduction, read on... The English writer and philologist J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) wrote a number of classic high-fantasy books with The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), creating an incredibly rich world with its own geography, creatures, and languages. He influenced a generation of writers, leading to a renewed interest in the fantasy genre, with later books, movies, and role-playing games all taking cues from his work. Even after publishing these books, Tolkien spent most of his life refining and expanding his universe, writing further background material, legends, and myths. After his death, his son Christopher Tolkien finished writing The Silmarillion (1977) and published the monstrously large 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth (1983-1996) that analysed earlier versions and drafts of these three books, plus other unpublished material. Since then there has been an encyclopedia (The Complete Guide to Middle-earth), The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, A Tolkien Bestiary, and even the rather whimsical The Science of Middle Earth. And though there has been a book on plants (The Plants of Middle-earth), there has not yet been a flora.

    Tolkien loved plants, especially trees. He created many things, but, as he clarified in correspondence, “imaginatively this ‘history’ is supposed to take place in a period of the actual Old World of this planet”, and so Middle-earth is populated with familiar plants. Judd has really gone to town, mining the complete above-mentioned body of Tolkien’s work for references to its flora, for a total of 141 plants. About 100 of these are given full descriptions, with a short section at the end giving brief descriptions of plants mentioned in passing, either because they occur in the plant-rich region of Ithilien, are food plants, or make an appearance as Hobbit names (they have a predisposition to name daughters after flowers). Tolkien fans will be pleased to see the inclusion of fictional plants such as the two ur-trees Telperion and Laurelin; the flowering plants Elanor, Evermind or simbelmynë, and Niphredil; the healing herb Kingsfoil or athelias; the Mallorn trees; the sickly white flowers of the Morgul Vale; and the White Tree of Gondor.

    The Flora of Middle-Earth has all the trappings of a serious botanical flora. Introductory sections describe the different plant communities of Middle-earth, clarify morphological terminology, and give two dichotomous identification keys. The bulk of the book consists of short descriptions for each plant, mentioning common and scientific names and taxonomical affiliation, a quote from one of Tolkien’s works, a discussion of the plant’s significance in the books, etymology, distribution and ecology, economic importance, and a formal botanical description. This information is mostly applicable to our world, but where available, details relevant to Tolkien’s world are also included. For most plants a stylised botanical illustration is added, on which more below.

    Now, a book like this obviously raises the question: who is the intended audience? Although most plants occur in our world and Tolkien included all but two of the tree species occurring in England, as a botanical flora its real-world use is limited. Judd opens the book remarking how most people suffer from plant blindness, vegetation just being an amorphous green backdrop. But there is a certain irony in that statement. Tolkien loved plants, for sure, but he was no botanist. Some interesting quotes actually suggest a slight disdain towards them – Tolkien considered technical restrictions on the flexible use of common names for groups of similar species the “pedantry of popularizing botanists”. Showy plant groups such as trees and flowering plants are well-represented here, but more inconspicuous groups get only a few (grasses) or single entries (e.g. ferns, mosses, mushrooms, sedges, and seaweeds). In my opinion, this suggests that they were just as much an amorphous green backdrop to Tolkien. To Tolkien’s credit though, Judd remarks repeatedly how appropriately he has situated plants in their environment or associated them with certain characters.

    I would argue that this book is squarely aimed at the serious Tolkien fan, if only because Judd frequently refers the reader to drawings of plants in the illustrated editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Húrin, as well as J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator – not the kinds of books I would expect on the shelves of casual fantasy readers. For the hardcore fan though, this book contains a wealth of information. Why did Tolkien, rather anachronistically, include coffee and potatoes as food plants? How grounded in reality are his fictional plants? Above all, it shows just how much Tolkien used flora to create atmosphere and bring his world to life.

    The illustrations deserve special mention, as Walter Judd has created some 160 beautiful, stylised, black-and-white, woodcut-like illustrations (which were created digitally, as he explains). Though accurate and showing some details of flowers and leaves, I wonder whether their style might get in the way of field identification, though I guess that was never the primary aim. The real highlight is that almost all of them incorporate a vignette portraying a scene from the books where these plants are mentioned. The focus in these vignettes is always on the plants, with characters skillfully woven into the image, sometimes only revealing themselves at a second glance.

    The Flora of Middle-Earth adds another layer to the existing body of serious scholarship on Tolkien’s work. Beautifully presented, this should strongly appeal to the serious Tolkien fan. They might even learn something about botany but will certainly come away with a greater appreciation of the importance of plants in both Tolkien’s world and ours.
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Walter S. Judd is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology, University of Florida. His research focuses on the systematics and evolution of the flowering plants. He has published over 200 refereed articles and has described numerous new species of plants.

Graham Judd holds an MFA in Printmaking from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design where he now serves as an Adjunct Faculty Member.

By: Walter S Judd(Author), Graham A Judd(Illustrator)
406 pages, 289 b/w illustrations
A book for the dedicated Tolkien fan, Flora of Middle-Earth is a tastefully illustrated and botanically sound account that shows the importance of plants in his stories.
Media reviews

"The clear, comprehensive alphabetical listing of each species, along with the visual identification key of the plant drawings, adds to the readers understanding and appreciation of the Tolkien canon."
– Ian Street, Annals of Botany

"Walter Judd lifts lovely passages from Tolkien's prose to elucidate on different plant species. There is helpful basic botany to further offset [our] 'plant blindness'. Graham Judd's rich, black and white illustrations are intriguing combinations of botanical likenesses and psychological commentary."
– The New York Journal of Books

"This is just such a book as Elrond might have had in his library – a work of impeccable botanical and literary scholarship (a rare combination). Together Walter and Graham Judd have produced a beautiful and accessible guide to the north temperate plants that populate Tolkien's world as well as many of our own familiar landscapes. I recommend this book for Tolkien fans who want to enjoy an even fuller immersion on their next trip to Middle Earth and anyone seeking a deeper connection with the green world around us."
– Lauren Raz, Associate Professor, National University of Colombia, Bogota

"What a clever and creative idea! A flora is an accounting of the plants of a particular area; Flora of Middle Earth is a real flora, and Middle Earth comes alive in this book. For the serious scholars of Tolkien this book provides many interesting insights on JRR Tolkien's knowledge of botany and its importance in Tolkien's legendarium. For the casual Tolkien reader, like me, the book provides many valuable insights on JRR Tolkien and his skills as a storyteller."
– Patrick Herendeen, Senior Director, Systematics and Evolutionary Biology, Chicago Botanic Garden

"This book is both eloquently written and beautifully illustrated. Fans of the Tolkien universe can rejoice in a deeper understanding of the world he has created. What's more, anyone with botanical interests will have a lot to gain from the information on these pages. Flora of Middle Earth will introduce plants to a grand and eager audience."
– Matt Candeias, founder of the In Defense of Plants blog and podcast

"The authors deftly weave the lore of Middle-earth with that of modern Europe to tell the stories of the plants, both in fiction and in life. Graham Judd's evocative illustrations nestle comfortably within the text, illuminating it with portraits of the plants and scenes from Tolkien's writings. This is the definitive guide to the trees, shrubs, herbs, and vines in the Shire and beyond, from Eriador to Mordor, or from Northumberland to North Carolina."
– Scott Zona, Curator of the Florida International University Wertheim Conservatory

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