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The Cabaret Of Plants: Botany and the Imagination

Opening this book at the very beginning, you know you are in for a real treat as the introductory artwork on the inside cover is distinctive and glorious, setting the scene for what is to come.

While this may, in some people minds, be a work of some serious nature, it is and it is not, as on every page there is a touch of the whimsical, the unique and the science which goes into making plants the truly fascinating species they are and have always been.

Commencing with the Introduction title, The Vegetable Plot, we are introduced to a very different aspect of Botany, when the first paragraph talks about Edward Lear’s Bong-tree of the ‘owl and the pussycat’ fame and then goes on to offer an explanation of how this and many illustration created by Lear such as the Cockatooca and Manypeeplia upsidedownia, came to be created and their eventual scientific explanation.

Travelling into the Ice age Mabey looks at the ancient traces of Palaeolithic cave artists have left behind on carvings and what was the purpose or significance of these carvings. He also poses the question, were they of any particular significance at all, other than perhaps the idle scratching’s of man whiling away the time. The significance of the works from a botanical perspective is of course somewhat different.

The Boabs’ of Madagascar are represented in glorious colour along with their very colourful history. The Boab nuts from these trees eventually bobbed across the World’s oceans to finally come to rest in the harsh dry climates of Western Australia.

William Wordworth’s Daffodils find their way into the chapters as does a glorious fern decked dress worn by Lady Barkly, the wife of the Governor of Victoria in 1860, following a fashion that was all the rage both in Australia and Britain.

There is so much information and enjoyment encapsulated within each chapter there is almost too much to absorb. Each chapter should be treated as a separate work to ensure maximum enjoyment is had from the journey into the complete fascination that is the plant world.

These humble, put upon species, are anything but and have provided food, fascination, healing, spiritual reverence, hazardous expeditions, obsessions, clothing, healing, inspiration, murder, mayhem and challenge since man walked on this earth, and deserve to be treated with the respect and reverence.

With Mabey’s immense knowledge, his way of creating fascination out of what many may view as rather dull subject matter, his quirky take on the serious side of science and his undoubted passion and love of plants this is a work that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a very good read.

As said, each chapter needs to be treated almost as a separate work; by the time you have reached the final chapter you will have been entertained, have  a far greater knowledge of the plant kingdom and find yourself returning time and time again to re-read that rather fascinating chapter on…………. !

AuthorRichard Mabey
PublisherProfile Books
DistributorAllen & Unwin
ReleasedDecember 2015