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Wild Edens

Wild Edens by Toby Musgrave and Chris Gardner – book review

A lavishly illustrated botanical travel book that is stylish enough to tempt casual perusal and detailed enough to merit taking a few notes. Hannah Gardner is a horticultural consultant and botanical writer.

Our review

A glossy, thoroughly researched book which focuses on dramatic adventures with plants on an epic global scale.

Octopus Books, £40 ISBN 978-1914239250


The title of this big, glossy book sums its content up succinctly. Wild Edens hints at dramatic adventures with plants on an epic global scale and its subtitle sets out an ambitious historical and botanical remit. The authors of this thoroughly researched and valuable addition to the ‘armchair travel’ genre are two high-profile plant geeks well-versed in leading and documenting specialist botanical exploration.

Dr Toby Musgrave has travelled widely in the footsteps of plant hunters as a scholarly plant and garden historian, while Chris Gardner adds botanical gravitas, keen observation and wonderful photographs as an international tour organiser and author of two botanical field guides. With Wild Edens they have written
a carefully crafted book that skilfully weaves together historical horticultural detail, memoir and botanical overview.

Nine chapters explore biodiversity hotspots, with some obvious contenders such as the Western Cape province, South Africa, but also Japan and Turkey’s Pontic Alps to name a few less frequently visited regions. The global scope and multi-layered text will undoubtedly appeal to a wide audience. Each chapter opens with entertaining personal reflections on the landscape and spirit of place, then a rather general and perhaps unnecessarily broad introduction to the region. The text then moves up a notch, considering habitat, distribution and adopted survival strategies. Environmental threats and pressures are mentioned.

A brief chronological history of plant discovery makes up a significant section of each chapter. Rich in detail and underpinned by razor-sharp referencing, this is refreshingly focused on local archeological and later literary evidence rather than on the contribution of notorious individuals and plant journeys into the floriculture of the western world. For each region there is a summary of prolific genera as well as best locations and time to visit.


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