Chasing Plants: Journeys with a Botanist through Rainforests, Swamps, and Mountains (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
A New Scientist Best Book of the Year
From an acclaimed botanist and artist, a thrilling and beautifully illustrated expedition around the globe in search of the world’s most extraordinary plants.
After making a strange discovery on a childhood trip to Ikea—a stand of sap-sucking, leafless broomrapes, stealing nutrients from their neighbors’ roots—Chris Thorogood dreamed of becoming a botanist and would stop at nothing to feed his growing addiction to plants. In his hair-raising adventures across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, Thorogood treads a death-defying path over cliffs, up erupting volcanoes, through typhoons, and out into the very heart of the world’s vast, green wilderness. Along the way, he encounters pitcher plants, irises, and orchids more heart-piercingly beautiful than could ever be imagined.
But with Thorogood as our guide in Chasing Plants, we not only imagine: we see. An internationally acclaimed botanical illustrator, Thorogood conjures his adventures spent seed-collecting and conserving plants around the world back to life in his electric paintings, which feature throughout the book. They bring plants out of the shadows, challenging us to see their intrigue and their character, and helping us to understand why plant species must be protected. To join Thorogood in his wild adventures is to be cast under his green spell: readers will never think of plants the same way again.
About the Author
Chris Thorogood is Deputy Director and Head of Science of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum. His research focuses on the evolution, conservation, and biomimetic applications of plants. Thorogood is a wildlife artist, botanical illustrator, and an international best-selling author of specialist field guides and popular books.
"Chasing Plants promises to propel the reader through rainforests, swamps, and mountains in pursuit of Earth’s vegetal wonders. What’s more, Thorogood supplements these death-defying adventures with his own wonderful illustrations and paintings."
— Simon Ings
"Do you love plants? Or maybe you love art? Or how about travel: do you love traveling to wild places on a personal quest for something? If you are intrigued by any of these propositions, then you simply must check out this splendiferous new book. . . . One might say Dr Thorogood is obsessed with plants. Actually, Dr Thorogood says Dr Thorogood is obsessed with plants. . . . Maybe, as Thorogood hopes, this book filled with his adventure and paintings will inspire future generations to also explore this world, to admire what they find, to protect these wonders that they may have only read and dreamt about in their youth, and to work to leave the world a better place. Highly recommended."
"Luminous paintings are the star of the show. . . . It is hard not to share in Thorogood's delight as each page brings effusions of rare and unique beauty, punctuated by occasional non-floral adventures: an encounter with an erupting volcano; a nail-biting descent down a crumbling cliff face in search of a broomrape; a memorable dinner in the Middle East and another in Okinawa. Who would have thought that chasing life forms that are rooted in place could be such an exciting occupation?"
— Natural History
"Botanist Thorogood (Perfectly Peculiar Plants) combines his two lifelong passions, painting and plants, in this marvelous account of his travels around the globe. The author remembers being 'entranced by living things as a kid,' a sentiment that continued well into his adulthood as he traveled to South Africa to hunt Hydnora (a parasitic plant that has vampire-like fangs); went looking for dragon arums, which smell like 'crawling through a sewer,' in Crete; and visited Israel in search of the Nazareth iris, which 'has an artless beauty far superior' to cultivated flowers. While recounting a trip to Borneo, Thorogood muses that 'even paradise is afflicted by typhoons,' a reflection that broadens into a consideration of climate change. He notes that, worldwide, two in five plant species are on the verge of going extinct, yet their 'plight' remains mostly unseen and ignored. Even so, he describes how plants seem to be incredibly resilient and surprising as they adapt to their environmental conditions by, for example, growing water-repellent or water-collecting leaves. The realistic oil paintings that appear throughout are a testament to Thorogood’s careful attention to the flora, and the vivid descriptions will make readers feel like they’re on the hunt with him. This will be catnip for plant lovers."
— Publishers Weekly
"Thrilling. . . . Readers who enjoy travel narratives will like reading about incredible places that many will never see. . . . For plant nerds seeking adventure."
— Library Journal
"In a global peregrination in search of some of the world’s most unusual plants, Thorogood, deputy director and head of science at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, brings a winning mix of skills: PhD in botany with an emphasis on parasitic plants, mad artistic talent that renders his plant subjects true to life, and a sense of adventure so keen that it carries him through some of the more treacherous terrain on the planet."
"Chasing Plants is an exuberant, awe-inspiring, and artistic science book that conveys absorbing love for plants. Here, tracking down nature's beauty, wherever it may be, is one of life's greatest thrills."
— Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
"Beautiful. . . . Pages are packed with Thorogood's own drawings and spectacular reproductions of his oil paintings based on the native flora of seven countries. . . . I think I may have discovered the best Christmas present for the botanically literate. Chasing Plants is not an oversized art book fit only for coffee tables, it rests easily in your hands and could be shared with guests, coworkers, and club members at annual parties. You may want to read some sentences aloud while showing off the illustrations."
— Peter Bernhardt
"In pursuit of plants Thorogood has dangled off cliffs, trekked deep into the jungle, and braved desert heat. . . . [But] Thorogood doesn’t just like tracking down new species. An essential part of his work is documenting his finds in meticulous botanical paintings, which he creates from the dozens of photos and copious notes he makes during his expeditions. . . . Thorogood wants to use both words and pictures to share the beauty of plants and to get across the message that two in five of the world’s plant species are threatened with extinction—and that we must do everything we can to protect them."
— The Lady
"For those of us who thought that Indiana Jones–style death-defying plant-hunters are a disappearing breed, Chasing Plants by the British botanist and botanical illustrator Thorogood provides electrifying proof that this is not the case as he recounts spinetingling tales of his travels through Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in search of some of the world’s most unusual plants. The resulting illustrations are a joy to behold."
— Irish Times
“Unusual, engaging, and delightfully informal, Chasing Plants combines exciting personal accounts of botanical travels and field studies with excellent factual knowledge. A talented scientist and artist, Thorogood illustrates his book with obvious joy, and his paintings and sketches are not just accurate, but vivid, bright, and evocative. His adventures will appeal to anyone fascinated by plants, from gardeners to amateur botanists and ecologists.”
— Sir Peter Crane, president of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation and author of "Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot"
“Calling himself a veritable ‘plant nerd,’ Thorogood shares his adventurous journey to document some of the world's most unique botanical treasures. His explorations as a field botanist are full of pistils (not pistols), traps in nature (not warfare), and many extraordinary botanical wonders. A must-read for any field biologist or armchair nature lover!”
— Meg Lowman, National Geographic Explorer and author of "The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees above Us"
“In the spirit of history’s greatest plant hunters but equipped with the latest scientific knowledge, Thorogood takes us on an adventurous journey from the steep cliffs of Northern Ireland to the rainforests of Borneo, from the arid zones of the Middle East to the succulent karoo of South Africa. Through personal stories and exquisite illustrations, we learn about some of the world’s weirdest and most fascinating plants. You’ll never look at a parasitic plant in the same way again.”
— Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and author of "The Hidden Universe: Adventures in Biodiversity"