Ten years ago, Ben Jacob turned outlaw to save our rarest flowers. this is his story.
Obsessed by orchids since childhood, Ben spent years travelling to far-flung jungles to see them in the wild. Then a chance encounter set him off on a journey of discovery into the wonderful, but often forgotten, world of Britain's fifty-one native species. These include the Bee which looks (and smells) so much like one that even bees are fooled, the Ghost which exists without sunlight, and Autumn Lady's Tresses which gave Darwin the proof he needed for his theory of evolution.
But our orchids are in desperate trouble. Many species are facing extinction. Decimated by changes in land use and climate, inadequately protected by environmental and planning laws, their habitats are disappearing fast. Determined to act before it was too late, Ben broke into building sites in the dead of night to rescue threatened plants, and turned his kitchen into a laboratory, his fridge into storage for hundreds of baby orchids, and his back yard into a plantation. But doing all that put him on the wrong side of the law. . .
At once a memoir, a natural history, and an inspiring call to action, reintroducing us to Britain's most endangered flowers, The Orchid Outlaw shows us how we can all save the world, one plant at a time.
University lecturer by day and clandestine ecologist by night, Ben Jacob lives with his family (and a small plantation of native orchids) at an undisclosed location deep in the West Country. This is his first book.
"If this doesn't turn into one of the most talked about nature books of the year, I'll eat my hat. Brilliantly written, urgent and brave"
– Lee Schofield, author of Wild Fell
"A vivid love letter to Britain's wild orchids [...] Ben Jacob breaks all the rules with enormous success"
– Francis Pryor, Time Team and author of The Making of the British Landscape
"A daring, delightful and galvanising call to save the world, one plant at a time"
– The Bookseller, editor's choice
"It's noble work in a time of great change. The Orchid Outlaw urges us to look closer and tread more carefully"
– Alice Vincent, New Statesman
"The Orchid Outlaw [...] offers captivating descriptions of pre-dawn forays on to private land where housing developments will soon obliterate colonies of precious orchids"
– Financial Times, Best new books on climate and the environment
"The book is written with a skip and drama, and will leave you furious that these strange and delicate plants have been so neglected"
– Mail on Sunday