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Plants: From Roots to Riches

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Plants: From Roots to Riches

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  1. ISBN: 9781444798234
  2. 368 pages, hardback
  3. John Murray, August 2014
Our obsession with plants and gardening goes back a long way and Plants: From Roots to Riches takes us to where it all began. Taking a journey through the scientific life of a uniquely British institution across 25 vivid chapters, this book explores how the last 250 years have transformed our relationship with plants for good.

Based on Radio 4’s landmark series, Kathy Willis, Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Carolyn Fry, the acclaimed science writer, will take us from the birth of modern botany right through to the modern day. Delving into Kew’s archive and its world-class collections – including the Herbarium with over 7.5 million preserved plant specimens – they start with Carl Linnaeus and his invention of a universal language to name plants, through Joseph Banks’ exotic discoveries and how Charles Darwin’s fascination with orchids helped convince doubters about evolution. And as the British Empire painted the atlas red, explorers, adventurers and scientists risked their lives to bring the most interesting plant specimens and information back to London, and to Kew. From the lucrative races to control rubber, quinine and coffee to understanding the causes of the potato famine, the science of plants has taught us fascinating and enormously valuable lessons.

Full of amazing images from the archives, (some never reproduced before) and packed with history, science, memorable tales of adventure and discovery, politics and conflict, changing economic and social preoccupations, each chapter tells a unique and fascinating story, but, gathered together, a great picture unfolds, of the development of a most remarkable science, the magic and beauty of plants and ultimately our dependency on them.

About the authors
Kathy Willis is Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She is also Professor of Biodiversity and a Fellow of Merton College, both at Oxford University. Winner of several awards, she has spent over twenty-five years researching and teaching biodiversity and conservation at Oxford and Cambridge.

Carolyn Fry is a freelance science writer. She has written seven successful books, including The Plant Hunters, winner of the European Garden Book Prize. Formerly Editor of the Royal Geographical Society’s magazine, Geographical, her work has been published in New Scientist, BBC Online, Telegraph, Guardian, The Times and Independent on Sunday.

Purchasing from Kew’s shops ensures a greater contribution comes back to Kew's work than when you buy elsewhere.
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