Books  Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Flower Hunters

Biography / MemoirOut of Print
  • An exciting narrative, combining science, history, biography and adventure
  • Tells the stories of the overlapping lives of eleven botanical explorers, who set out in the 18th and 19th centuries to explore the far corners of the globe, to collect exotic plants, and advance the new science of botany
  • Reveals the dramatic stories behind some of our most familiar garden plants: from exquisite orchids and magnolias to the Douglas fir and monkey-puzzle tree
  • Alongside adventurous tales, the book draws out the scientific and cultural value of the work of the early flower hunters and collectors
  • Read of the daring and dedication of men and women like Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook around the world; Robert Fortune, who battled pirates to smuggle tea plants out of China; and the extraordinary Marianne North, who visited almost every continent to paint a beautiful, and scientifically valuable, record of the plants she saw

By: Mary Gribbin(Author), John Gribbin(Author)

332 pages, colour & b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Mar 2009 | #177343 | ISBN-13: 9780199561827
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Mar 2008 | #170833 | ISBN-13: 9780192807182
Out of Print Details

About this book

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.

"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

"Thoroughly entertaining."
Vulpes Libris


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)


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