THE PLANT HUNTERS by Tyler Whittle


Email this review


Mr. Whittle is an English botanist and novelist (The Spinning Tops of Naples, 1965). In this rapid, chatty, anecdotal spread he culls here and there from the lives and contributions of a fine stand of notables, from thirteenth century Albertus Magnus (tiny but assiduous in hunting plants over a wide area) to more contemporary botanists like Forrest, Fortune, Rock and ""Chinese"" Wilson (cf. The Flowering World of ""Chinese"" Wilson, p. 481). Before the eighteenth century, plant hunters were concerned mainly with the medicinal and decorative properties of the plants they hunted in exotic lands; in the age of Linnaeus, exploring botanists were impelled by the lure of scientific inquiry; in the 19th century commercialism prompted the search for cultivatable plants for agriculture and gardens. Mr. Whittle tells tales about some indomitable (if sometimes disagreeable) personalities--for example, the pirate Dampier who happened upon the ""parrot beak"" vine of Australia; dour David Douglas who brought his coniferous namesake to Europe; Sir Joseph Banks, Cook's naturalist; and Dr. Nathaniel Ward, whose invention of glazed cases revolutionized plant transportation. With a busy appendix about collecting and nomenclature (Whittle is transported by the ""musical ablative"" of bostryx) this is good fun for lighthearted amateur fanciers.

Publisher: Chilton