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The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of adventure and Discovery Around the World Hardcover – 5 Nov 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ward Lock; 1st edition (5 Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0706377532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0706377538
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 20.3 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The years before and during the age of the British Empire were periods of vast scientific and technological advancement. The travels to all parts of the world brought back many tales of native peoples, their lifestyles, and goods and riches beyond imagination. Britain became the world's greatest trader of commodities such as gold, spices and food. Part of the process of recording the new found cultures, continents and indigenous plant species became the responsibility of privately and royally funded societies such as the Horticulture Society and Kew Gardens. Through these organisations, expeditions to all corners of the globe were organised to bring back plants, seeds and exotic foods not only for research but also for cultivation and trading purposes.

The Plant Hunters offers an extraordinary look into the lives of the men who travelled the world in search of plants and seeds to document and send back to Britain. From the early travels of Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook and the Endeavour in 1768, to the more recent adventures of Frank Kingdon- Ward in the early 1900s, this book tells the tales of these brave and dedicated botanists who spent years in often unfavourable conditions in order to gather specimens. The plants that they categorised, lovingly drew and documented, were at their time all new and very different from those found in Europe. Many of these have now become garden standards such as lilies, orchids, rhododendrons and many varieties of fir and conifers.

The stories of these men's lives follow the advancement of British culture from the early settling of Australia to the opening of trade with and the colonisation of China and the Far East. This fascinating, well-documented and well-written book will be of interest to anyone with an interest in gardening, botany, or history.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Christine Middleton on 30 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I had regretted not buying a copy of this book for myself when it was first published, so was delighted to find it on Amazon: just the right amount of biographical information about each of the most important plant hunters, together with a concise botanical summary of plants discovered by each of them - and superb illustrations. Added to which, my copy is in mint condition. Complete satisfaction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Nov. 1998
Format: Hardcover
The plant hunters really are forgotten heroes. This book tells the amazing story of 10 remarkable and determnined (some would say downright eccentric) men who, over the past two centuries, travelled to unexplored parts of the globe in order to bring back exotic new plants for our gardens. Today we take these plants for granted, but you won't look at your garden the same way again once you have read this book. To know the stories behind some of our favourite plants is really enlightening. And as for the adventures experienced by these men - it really is Boy's Own stuff. They suffered hardships, injury and even death in pursuit of their horticultural holy grails. What I particularly appreciated, apart from the wonderful colour illustrations and maps, were the explanations of how the new plant helped forge garden fashions. This brought history to life and put past garden fashions into context.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am confused by the other reviews of this book which make me wonder if I have been reading a different book to everyone else. It is appallingly badly written. The style is childlike and repetitive and makes one feel one is reading a series of sixth formers general studies essays. The authors are trying to cover too much ground in such a book and I think this is why the style suffers. Could have done better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A Travel Adventure Thriller 18 July 2000
By BangorBill - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Plant Hunters describes the adventures of ten British plant hunters who traveled to remote places such as South Africa, Tahiti, New Zealand, China, Nepal, South America, and the Pacific Northwest (still remote in the early 1800s) in search of plants that would be new to European gardners and botanists. Some of the trips were primarily for scientific purposes, but most were funded by British commercial nurseries looking for exotic plants to sell. The time period ranges from the late 1700s to the early 1900s; most of the travels were done in the age of sailing ships. The searches of the plant hunters were no walk in the park. They experienced dangers from extreme weather and terrain, insects, disease, rebel terrorists, pirates, and thieves. Most of them experienced injury or sickness, and some of their companions died. This is a book of adventure stories, accompanied by color photos of some of the beautiful plants that the hunters brought back (usually as seeds or bulbs). For example, in the 1800s many species of rhododendrons were brought back from Asia, leading to a "rhododendromania" in Europe that was as passionate as the "orchid fever" of the 1900s. The book is well written and well illustrated, though I wished for photos of some of the plants that were mentioned but not illustrated. The book inspired me to learn more about some of the plant hunters. I'll start with Patrick O'Brian's biography of Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed around the world with Captain James Cook in the late 1700s.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Extreme Gardening 22 Mar. 2013
By ReadingintheGarden - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mommy, where do monkey puzzle trees come from? Or how about the Douglas fir or Clematis Montana var. rubens? Have you ever considered where all our plants came from (other than a catalog)? The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World by Toby Musgrave, Chris Gardner, and Will Musgrave explores the lives of brave men who scoured the world over to bring back those lovely plants that thrive in your garden. Their quests to find plant specimens often put them in perilous situations. In this fascinating book you'll find out how Ernest "Chinese" Wilson, the prolific plant hunter, got his "lily limp." You'd never guess this mild-mannered looking man was actually a daring Indiana-Jones type who faced treacherous rapids on the Yangtze River and narrow mountainous trails with dangerous landslides. And speaking of Indiana Jones, Frank Kingdon-Ward was also terrified of snakes, but that didn't stop him from conducting almost two dozen expeditions to exotic locales such as Burma and Tibet. This was one hardy man. He endured falling off a cliff, armies of leeches, malaria, being impaled by a bamboo spike, and even survived an earthquake. And you thought you had a rough day at work. Discover which plant collector was trampled to death when he fell into a pit that was already inhabited by a bull. Follow the lives of both renowned Joes: Sir Joseph Banks and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. In all, the lives of ten fearless explorers are featured.

Although their action-packed lives seem movie-worthy, their accounts are conveyed in a purely biographical format. It's a "just-the-facts, ma'am" style of writing with no flourishing descriptions, no glimpses into their thoughts or emotions, no conversations to follow. Nevertheless, I found this book an eye-opening adventure that made me look at the flowers in my garden in a whole new light. Read other reviews at [...]
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