The Plant Hunter's Atlas
Book review by Juliet Harrison
Ambra Edwards' 2021 book is a highly engaging exploration regarding the origins of many plants and the stories of the people credited with introducing them to the Western world.
Each section takes the reader on a voyage across a different continent, examining the 'roots' of common garden favourites such as Dahlias and a handful of more unusual flora, for example the Corpse Lily. A vast range of plants are featured, including those with ornamental value such as Rhododendrons, and some which have been cultivated for human consumption - for instance wheat and coffee.
Every featured plant is introduced with a thumbnail of key facts, including its scientific name, its native location, and the name of the botanist credited with its introduction to the West. The reader is then provided with a deeper but easy to read account of the plant and people connected to it, placed within relevant historical, social, economic, scientific and cultural contexts. All this is accompanied by a vast selection of superb artwork, copyrighted to Kew Gardens.
Edwards' writing is highly informative yet very accessible. Her research is thorough and is presented in a personable manner. The content may appeal to people interested in gardening, botany and / or history and geography. Each chapter is long enough to provide interesting insights without feeling overwhelming - this is an ideal book to 'dip' in and out of.
This fascinating publication is less an 'atlas' and more an incredible journey around the world and through time, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of one's home! It is packed with delightful nuggets of information to impress your friends (or perhaps win a pub quiz) with!