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.