The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the far Corners of the Earth

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the far Corners of
Anita Silvey
Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: 

cloth, 88 pp., $19.99

This well-written book certainly will charm older grade school readers as well as some high school students in the many exotic temptations of plant exploration. Plenty of well-chosen illustrations add to the delight of this work that describes the efforts of historical and modern plant explorers around the world, while adding a dose of science and history (thanks to descriptions of the significance of Linnaeus and Darwin and their intellectual dependence on plant explorers). In six chapters, this work dedicates a great deal of text and figures to such characters as Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) and Ernest H. Wilson (1876–1930). Refreshingly, the last chapter, alas too briefly, touches on some of the current work of botanists in collecting and preserving plants. I only regret that this book did not mention some of the important women acting as plant collectors, such as Jeanne Baret (1740–1807), who disguised herself as a man to join Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s circumnavigation (1766–69). Baret was described quite well in Glynis Ridley’sThe Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe (New York: Crown, 2010). In any case, Silvey's The Plant Hunters is highly recommended for young readers as an inspirational guide to future botanical explorers.

— Edward J. Valauskas, Curator of Rare Books, Lenhardt Library, Chicago Botanic Garden