Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Plant Messiah

When I heard that Kew's 'Plant Messiah', Carlos Magdalena, had just brought out his first book I was intrigued. Carlos is a 'Botanical Horticulturist' at Kew, known best for his work bringing critically endangered plants back from the edge of extinction, and his nickname of 'The Plant Messiah' was bestowed on him by none other than legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough, so a book seemed quite promising...

I've read many things written by people involved heavily in conservation and materials tend to fall into two camps; 'the world is going to die and this is why it's your fault' or 'this is a tree, and trees make the lovely air'. With what I would say is a tolerable understanding of the troubles facing our planet in times to come, and how plants contribute to our world, I really didn't want to read yet another book along these lines.

I was more than a little surprised by this book; part autobiography, part account of real work carried out by the author, this is what the world of plant conservation has needed for some time- a good natured insight into the world of plant conservation that is gripping and thought provoking.

Magdalena's style of writing and his interesting stories of his work in far flung places (as well as 'back at base' behind the scenes at Kew) makes this book a bit of a page turner. Personally I devoured it over the course of two days, and it's currently on loan to a friend who is finding it similarly gripping. The language is straightforward; there's no attempt to force in technical language to make the author look clever, but neither is there an assumption that the reader can't understand technical detail if explained coherently. In fact, the book starts with a brief glossary so all readers get the opportunity to brush up on a few terms before starting the book if they so wish!

This is one of the very few books I own that has moved me to review it; whatever your level of technical expertise this book is fascinating and will renew your interest in safeguarding plant species for the future.

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