Pathless Forest: The Quest to Save the World’s Largest Flowers


Pathless Forest: The Quest to Save the World’s Largest Flowers Author: Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Penguin Books Ltd
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Pages: 288 Language: English ISBN: 9780241632628 Categories: , , , , , , , , , Tag:

The incredible story of one man’s obsession to find and protect the world’s largest flowers

As a child, Chris Thorogood dreamed of seeing Rafflesia – the plant with the world’s largest flowers. He crafted life-size replicas in an abandoned cemetery, carefully bringing them to life with paper and paint. Today he is a botanist at the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden and has dedicated his life to studying the biology of such extraordinary plants, working alongside botanists and foresters in Southeast Asia to document these huge, mysterious blooms.

Pathless Forest is the story of his journey to study and protect this remarkable plant – a biological enigma, still little understood, which invades vines as a leafless parasite and steals its food from them. We join him on a mind-bending adventure, as he faces a seemingly impenetrable barrier of weird, wonderful and sometimes fearsome flora; finds himself smacking off leeches, hanging off vines, wading through rivers; and following indigenous tribes into remote, untrodden rainforests in search of Rafflesia’s ghostly, foul-smelling blooms, more than a metre across.

We depend on plants for our very existence, but two in five of the world’s species are threatened with extinction – nobody knows how many species of Rafflesia might already have disappeared through deforestation. Pathless Forest is part thrilling adventure story and part an inspirational call to action to safeguard a fast-disappearing wilderness. To view plants in a different way, as vital for our own future as for that of the planet we share. And to see if Rafflesia itself can be saved.





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Over the years, Rafflesia has bewitched botanists — its very elusiveness adding to its mystique. For Thorogood, who already specialised in parasitic plants, it became the apex of them all. He was Captain Ahab; this was his own great white whale -- Tom Whipple * The Times * These forests aren’t the familiar backdrop of nature documentaries; here, they’re the stars. In this overwhelming, densely woven setting, the boundaries between person, plant and environment start to dissolve, along with old assumptions about what plants are … Pathless Forest closes with Thorogood and Filipino colleagues poring over cryptic instructions, and praying over their own grafted vine. Whether or not a foul-smelling, magnificent Rafflesia eventually blooms, this is a gripping, Technicolor account of why their efforts matter -- Rachel Aspden * The Guardian * In his flamboyant account, Thorogood has produced a book as highly coloured as the plant itself. It will surely raise the profile of Rafflesia from stinking corpse flower to icon of Southeast Asian plant conservation -- Kate Teltscher * The Spectator * [Thorogood’s] description of the journey ‘into the abyss’ … has all the hallmarks of adventure: nearly drowning in a river, scaling cliffs while dangling on lainas, being bitten by giant ants and stung by toxic trees … But it was worth it … and he also makes a serious broader point. Rafflesia … are threatened and on the edge of extinction. For all their strangeness, the very rarity of these gigantic living objects symbolises our continuing carelessness towards nature -- Charles Elliott * Literary Review *