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Pathless Forest The Quest to Save the World's Largest Flowers

By: Chris J Thorogood(Author)
273 pages, 4 plates with colour illustrations; b/w illustrations
Publisher: Allen Lane
Pathless Forest
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  • Pathless Forest ISBN: 9780241632628 Hardback Mar 2024 In stock
Price: £25.00
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

As a child, Chris Thorogood dreamt of seeing Rafflesia, the world's largest flower. Today he is a botanist at the University of Oxford's Botanic Garden and has dedicated his life to studying the biology of such extraordinary plants. Rafflesia is a parasite, a thief. Having long ago abandoned photosynthesis, its leafless form steals food from the other plants it inhabits.

Many parasitic plants are poorly known to science, and these botanical enigmas fascinate Thorogood, just as they did when he was young. Working alongside botanists and foresters in Southeast Asia, he's documented Rafflesia in its natural habitat. Smacking off leeches, hanging off vines, wading through rivers and wrestling with the forest he's followed tribes into remote, untrodden rainforests to find Rafflesia's ghostly, foul-smelling blooms more than a metre across.

Thorogood introduces us to this mysterious world in which vines creep, forests whisper, and magnificent flowers unfold on every page. We depend on plants for our very existence, but two in five of the world's species are threatened with extinction. As we explore this fast-disappearing wilderness, Pathless Forest presents a call to action to safeguard the environment, to look beyond the beautiful backdrop described here and see plants in a different way, as vital for our own future and for that of the planet we share together.

Customer Reviews


Chris Thorogood is a botanist and lecturer at the University of Oxford, where he holds the position of Deputy Director and Head of Science at Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum. His research focuses on the evolution of parasitic and carnivorous plants, taxonomic diversity in biodiversity hotspots around the world, and biomimetics – exploring the potential applications of plants in technology. An author and broadcaster, he makes regular appearances on TV and radio and is also an award-winning botanical illustrator and wildlife artist. Obsessed with plants, he is on a mission to make everyone see them differently and realize how they, people and the planet are all connected.

By: Chris J Thorogood(Author)
273 pages, 4 plates with colour illustrations; b/w illustrations
Publisher: Allen Lane
Media reviews

"Over the years, Rafflesia has bewitched botanists – its very elusiveness adding to its mystique. For Thorogood, who already specialised in parasitic plants, it became the apex of them all. He was Captain Ahab; this was his own great white whale"
– Tom Whipple, The Times

"These forests aren't the familiar backdrop of nature documentaries; here, they're the stars. In this overwhelming, densely woven setting, the boundaries between person, plant and environment start to dissolve, along with old assumptions about what plants are [...] Pathless Forest closes with Thorogood and Filipino colleagues poring over cryptic instructions, and praying over their own grafted vine. Whether or not a foul-smelling, magnificent Rafflesia eventually blooms, this is a gripping, Technicolor account of why their efforts matter"
– Rachel Aspden, The Guardian

"In his flamboyant account, Thorogood has produced a book as highly coloured as the plant itself. It will surely raise the profile of Rafflesia from stinking corpse flower to icon of Southeast Asian plant conservation"
– Kate Teltscher, The Spectator

"[Thorogood's] description of the journey 'into the abyss' [...] has all the hallmarks of adventure: nearly drowning in a river, scaling cliffs while dangling on lainas, being bitten by giant ants and stung by toxic trees [...] But it was worth it [...] and he also makes a serious broader point. Rafflesia [...] are threatened and on the edge of extinction. For all their strangeness, the very rarity of these gigantic living objects symbolises our continuing carelessness towards nature"
– Charles Elliott, Literary Review

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