Orchids are beloved for their singular, instantly recognisable beauty. Jim Endersby offers a unique cultural history of this captivating family of plants, revealing their allure and wonder. Following the stories of orchids throughout history, Endersby divides our attraction to them into four key themes: science, empire, sex, and death. He explores how these have shaped orchids and how orchids, in return, have shaped our own investigations and associations.
When it comes to empire, for instance, orchids are a prime example of the exotic riches sought by Europeans as they shaped their plans for colonisation. Endersby also reveals how Charles Darwin's theory of evolution became intimately entangled with the story of the orchid as he investigated their methods of cross-pollination. As Endersby shows, orchids, perhaps because of their extraordinarily diverse colours, shapes, and sizes have also bloomed repeatedly in films, novels, plays, and poems, from Shakespeare to science fiction, from hard-boiled thrillers to elaborate modernist novels.
Featuring many stunning illustrations from the Kew archives, Orchid: A Cultural History tells, for the first time, the extraordinary story of orchids and our prolific interest in them. It is a tale sure to enchant not only gardeners and plant collectors, but anyone curious about the flower's obsessive hold on the imagination in history, cinema, literature, and more.