True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth
by Anita Silvey
The Plant Hunters begins: “One got eaten by tigers in the Philippines: one died of fever in Ecuador: one drowned in the Orinoco River; one fell to his death in Sierra Leone. Another survived rheumatism, pleurisy and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze River in China, only to be murdered later. A few ended their days in lunatice asylums; many simply vanished into thin air.” From that beginning you simply have to read why and how all those things could happen to people how love plants. Plants!? Well, that was just in the past – in the beginning when people were exploring the world and mapping things out you think, and then you keep reading. Yes, it was in the past, but perhaps not as far back as you think and it is still going on. Not with such dire consequences, but still with risk and danger and sacrifice. I love plants and am very interested in them. It is interesting to think about the role of plants in our world’s development and history. We might take them for granted, but their importance to our survival is clear.
It is interesting to learn of how plants were identified in the past and how they were named and catalogued. It is even more interesting to know how they were valued and smuggled and secreted from place to place for pleasure, profit and gain. You can visit arboretums to see how these collections have developed and been cared for all these years. It makes you wonder about the plants that still wait to be discovered today. Silvey tells us: “Today’s ‘plant geeks’ share the traits of those who came before them: a love of the natural world, the thrill of discovery and travel, and a dedication to botany and science.” They are going on exciting adventures in search of the “beautiful, unusual, useful or rare plant.” It could even be you.