A heady celebration of the beauty and history of the wild orchid species of the British Isles, embraced in one glorious and kaleidoscopic summer-long hunt by naturalist Jon Dunn.
From the chalk downs of the south coast of England to the heathery moorland of the Shetland Isles, and from the holy island of Lindisfarne in the east to the Atlantic frontier of western Ireland, Orchid Summer is a journey into Britain and Ireland's most beautiful corners. The flowers that are the focus of this treasure hunt are exquisite and diverse. Some resemble insects and develop scents that mimic the smell of a virgin female wasp in order to lure male wasps to sample their unsatisfying charms. Some tower above the surrounding vegetation; others are vanishingly small and discrete. Some are sweetly scented; others smell of ripe billy goats. Some can be readily found but some will prove more elusive – none more so than the last to flower, the rarest of them all, the ghost orchid…
Capturing the intoxicating beauty of these rare and charismatic flowers, Orchid Summer is also an exploration of their history, their champions, their place in our landscape and the threats they face. Combining infectious enthusiasm and a painterly eye with a deep knowledge that comes from a lifetime's passionate devotion to their study, Dunn sweeps us up on his adventure, one from which it is impossible not to emerge enchanted and enriched.
Jon Dunn is a natural-history writer, photographer and tour leader based in Shetland, who travels worldwide searching for memorable wildlife encounters. A childhood exploring the water meadows and abandoned orchards of the Somerset Levels and the droves and ancient woods of Dorset's Blackmoor Vale spurred a lifelong passion for all things natural history based. His Shetland home features otters on his doorstep, and summer evenings watching porpoises from the kitchen window. Once stalked by a mountain lion in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental, he generally prefers experiencing wildlife on his own terms and not as part of the food chain.
"[...] In Orchid Summer, the subject is not so much the author as the flowers. Jon Dunn, an experienced all-round naturalist and photographer based in Shetland, m ade a very thorough quest. Not only did he knock off the species but he also found many of the colour varieties and hybrids.He has considerable knowledge and expertise. Some of his many digressions into orchid lore, orchid heroes and orchid feats were new to me.[...]"
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 29(4), April 2018
"Remarkable [...] Dunn is very good at evoking the intensity with which orchid hunters pursue their quarry [...] He is also skilled in describing the beauty of the flowers themselves. Orchid Summer contains no photographs and few illustrations but scarcely needs them, so vivid and expressive is Dunn's prose"
– Sunday Times
"A painterly book detailing a naturalist's summer-long search for the wildest flowers of the British Isles; a hymn to the homegrown exotic"
– National Geographic Traveller
"Dunn is relentless in his quest to unearth the stories around the orchids that so enrapture him – and finds a few tales of floral skulduggery along the way! The history of these flowers, and the threats they face, combine to make this a great read for any plant enthusiast"
– Garden News
"From Muckle Flugga to the Isles of Scilly, this is a journey through Britain as you've never quite seen it before – a riveting orchidaceous journey to find our most elaborate, elusive and desired flowers. Jon Dunn is a marvellous guide – a wide-ranging polymath, learning lightly worn, he paints evocative pictures and delivers delicious tales"
– Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles
"[Jon Dunn's] enthusiasm, knowledge and curiosity are evident in everything he does [...] Part travelogue, part memoir and part natural history poem, Orchid Summer is a dazzling, evocative account of Jon's adventures [...] A love letter to these most magical of plants"
– Eden Magazine
"Dunn's writing is assured and reflective. He has a painterly eye for colour terms and seems especially fond of them [...] The considered descriptions slow the reader's pace and engage the imagination [...] To be guided by Jon Dunn in such a pursuit is a pleasure"
– Times Literary Supplement
"In this intoxicating blend of nature quest, cultural history and science, Jon Dunn takes us through the landscape of the orchid [...] We travel with him to discover the orchidaceous secrets we might one day be lucky enough to encounter, if only we knew what to look for. And with this wonderful manual we now have a much better chance"
– Miriam Darlington, BBC Wildlife
"A book rich with orchids and their subjects [...] A wonderful book"
– Robert Macfarlane
"Dunn [...] takes us on a summer journey across some of Britain and Ireland's loveliest countryside [...] Celebrating the beauty, history and charisma of wild orchids, Jon Dunn [...] writes engagingly of these delicate and elusive flowers"
"Dunn is a fine nature writer, whose descriptions of locations are eloquent and often poignant [...] He is an erudite authority on orchid identification, while his digressions into their uses as aphrodisiacs, their promiscuous tendency to form hybrids that bamboozle botanists, and tales of their curious place in human affairs are constantly entertaining"
"An encyclopaedic romp through the spell that orchids cast on us – the history, intrigue and joy their appearances in our countryside engender [...] It's infectious stuff [...] Essential reading for all "orchidiots""
– Plant Life