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The flower hunters were intrepid explorers – remarkable, eccentric men and women who scoured the world in search of extraordinary plants from the middle of the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, and helped establish the new science of botany. For these adventurers, the search for new, undiscovered plant specimens was something worth risking – and often losing – their lives for.
From the Douglas-fir and the monkey puzzle tree, to exotic orchids and azaleas, many of the plants that are now so familiar to us were found in distant regions of the globe, often in wild and unexplored country, in impenetrable jungle, and in the face of hunger, disease, and hostile locals. It was specimens like these, smuggled home by the flower hunters, that helped build the great botanical collections, and lay the foundations for the revolution in our understanding of the natural world that was to follow. Here, the adventures of eleven such explorers are brought to life, describing not only their extraordinary daring and dedication, but also the lasting impact of their discoveries both on science, and on the landscapes and gardens that we see today.
Prologue. John Ray (1627-1705)
1. Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)
2. Joseph Banks (1743-1820)
3. Francis Masson (1741-1805) and Carl Peter Thunberg (1742-1828)
4. David Douglas (1799-1834)
5. William Lobb (1809-1864) and Thomas Lobb (1817-1894)
6. Robert Fortune (1812-1880)
7. Marianne North (1830-1890)
8. Richard Spruce (1817-1893)
9. Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911)
"A lovely version [...] This volume is filled with useful, well-organised information [...] Evelyn's work is a treat."
– Christian Review
"The assiduous Gribbins have uncovered much splendid detail in this bouquet of 11 floral explorers."
– Christopher Hirst, The Independent
"The stories are wonderful"
– Literary Review
– The Times
– Vulpes Libris