Fathers of Botany: the discovery of Chinese plants by European missionaries

Fathers of Botany: the discovery of Chinese plants by European missionaries

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Fathers of Botany: the discovery of Chinese plants by European missionaries

Many of the world's renowned and exciting garden plants have their origins in China. Jane Kilpatrick shows in Fathers of Botany that the first Westerners to reveal this bounty were in fact the clergy.
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Description

Description

Many of the world's most renowned and exciting ornamental plants-including magnolias, roses, rhododendrons, tree peonies, lilies, and blue poppies-have their origins in China. In the mid-nineteenth century, professional plant hunters were dispatched by nurseries and botanic gardens to collect living botanical specimens from China for cultivation in Europe, and it is these adventurers and nurserymen who are often credited with the explosive bloom of Chinese flowers in the West.


But as Jane Kilpatrick shows in Fathers of Botany, the first Westerners to come upon and document this bounty were in fact cut from a different cloth: the clergy. Following the Opium Wars, European missionaries were the first explorers to dig further into the Chinese interior and send home evidence of one of the richest and most varied floras ever seen, and it was their discoveries that caused a sensation among Western plantsmen. Both men of faith and talented botanists alike, these missionaries lent their names to many of the plants they discovered, but their own stories disappeared into the leaf litter of history.


Drawing on their letters and contemporary accounts, Jane focuses on the lives of four great French missionary botanists: Peres Armand David (of Davidia involucrate, the handkerchief or dove tree, and discoverer of the giant panda), Jean Marie Delavay, Paul Guillaume Farges, and Jean Andre Soulie, as well as a group of other French priests, Franciscan missionaries, and a single German Protestant pastor who all amassed significant plant collections, as she unearths a lost chapter of botanical history. In so doing, she reminds today's gardeners and botanists, and any of us who stop to smell the roses, of the enormous debt owed to these obscure fathers of botany.


About the author Jane Kilpatrick is an Oxford-educated freelance historian and garden writer who is based in the UK. She is the author of Gifts from the Gardens of China: The Introduction of Traditional Chinese Garden Plants to Britain 1698-1862.




'Historians and gardeners can all gain from her unmissable book Fathers of Botany, about the remarkable men who took Christianity to remote parts of China and put such energy in to collecting superb plants, unknown at the time in the west. Robin Lane Fox, Financial Times


'This handsome volume fills an important gap in our overall knowledge and understanding of plant exploration. Perhaps, more importantly, it gives us a detailed insight into those many individuals who braved hostile Chinese lands in their quest'. Christopher Grey-Wilson, The Plantsman


'This beautifully produced and illustrated book is heartily recommended to anyone interested in the history of plant discovery or that of the Missions Etrangères and its brave men'. John Grimshaw, Catholic Historical Review

Additional Info

Additional Info

  1. Author: Jane Kilpatrick
  2. 260pp. Over 100 colour photographs and maps. 288 x 238mm. Hardback
  3. ISBN 9781842465141
  4. Kew Publishing and University of Chicago Press, 2014

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