The names of plants that are so familiar to us – Magnolia, Bougainvillea, Sequoia may just be names, but behind the names lie stories of espionage and heroism, rivalry and mystery and inspiration. In this lush and lively book, celebrated botanist Sandra Knapp explores the people whose names have been immortalized in plant genera, presenting little known stories about both the featured plants and their famous eponyms alongside photographs and botanical drawings from the unmatched collections of London’s Natural History Museum. Knapp’s subjects include many pioneering explorers, collectors and naturalists, and range from Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus (Darwinia), to the American Founding Fathers George Washington (Washingtonia)and Benjamin Franklin (Franklinia).
Many of them have made enduring contributions to the field of botany, such as the explorer Alice Eastwood (Eastwoodia elegans) – who saved the California Academy of Science’s priceless plant collection from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake – to Pierre Magnol (Magnolia) the legendary French botanist who was the first to conceptualisethe idea of plant families. Contemporary figures include the pop star and actress Lady Gaga, whose green heartshapedGrammy Awards outfit looked like a fern gametophyte, and whose work inspired the fern Gaga, and Sir David Attenborough,perhaps the greatest living advocate for the planet, who is honoured by the ingeniously named Sirdavidia.