My Search for all the Wild Flowers of Britain
Join renowned naturalist Peter Marren on an exciting quest to see every species of wild plant native of Britain.
**ONE OF THE GUARDIAN’S BEST BOOKS OF 2018**
Join renowned naturalist Peter Marren on an exciting quest to see every species of wild plant native to Britain.
The mysterious Ghost Orchid blooms in near darkness among rotting leaves on the forest floor. It blends into the background to the point of invisibility, yet glows, pale and ghostly. The ultimate grail of flower hunters, it has been spotted only once in the past twenty-five years. Its few flowers have a deathly pallor and are said to smell of over-ripe bananas.
Peter Marren has been a devoted flower finder all his life. While the Ghost Orchid offers the toughest challenge of any wild plant, there were fifty more British species Peter had yet to see, having ticked off the first 1,400 rummaging in hedges, slipping down gullies and peering in peat bogs. But he set himself the goal of finding the remaining fifty in a single summer. As it turned out, the wettest summer in years.
This expert and emotional journey takes Peter the length and the breadth of the British Isles, from the dripping ancient woods of the New Forest to the storm-lashed cliffs of Sutherland. He paddles in lakes, clambers up cliffs in mist and rain, and walks several hundred miles, but does he manage to find them all?
Partly about plants, partly autobiography, Chasing the Ghost is also a reminder that to engage with wild flowers, all we need to do is look around us and enjoy what we see.
Praise for Chasing the Ghost:
‘Peter Marren is the unsung hero of Britain’s nature writers’ Stephen Moss, author of Dynasties
‘Jolly, quixotic and ends with real poignancy’ Guardian
‘A poignant reminder to us all to engage with the wild flowers that grow around us’ i Newspaper
“Peter Marren is the unsung hero of Britain's nature writers. His luminous prose sheds light on the forgotten corners of Britain's natural heritage – our diverse and sometimes bizarre flora – and his quest to see every single species in the country. He is the perfect guide, leading us along the highways and byways, through wayside and woodland, as he tracks down some of our rarest and most fascinating plants. Delightful.”
Stephen Moss, naturalist and author
“Planting hunting here or abroad has always pulled in great enthusiasts. In Marren’s case it is a quiet enthusiasm, not academic, but companionable and intimate. He delivers easily all kinds of fascinating thoughts and information about the natural world… There is philosophy too. He understands that no ecosystem has a perfect moment to which it ought always to be restored. Environments change for better and worse, populations of plants and animals wax and wane. Ecology is flux. And does he find the ghost orchid? Well, he’s philosophical about that.”
“Peter Marren writes with such knowledge and affection for plants, and in such a modest and winning manner that few could help wanting to be a plant spotter in this image... If you already have the botany bug then you’ll want to read this book, and to own it so that you can dip into it in future years, but even for the confirmed non-botanist like myself, this is a very good read and one which makes me slightly uneasy about how much I have been missing by looking up rather than down and how blinkered is my view of the natural world.”
Dr Mark Avery
“A poignant reminder to us all to engage with the wild flower that grow around us”
“Wonderful... This book would appeal to anyone with an enthusiasm for wildflowers or an interest in the history of natural history”
Hannah Gardner, Gardens Illustrated
“Jolly, quixotic and ends with real poignancy”
Patrick Barkham, Guardian, **Books of the Year**
“This is superlative natural history storytelling – a joyful and unexpectedly moving celebration of overlooked beauty. Marren’s mission is wry, entertaining and deeply moral too, for he shows how these precious flowers will only endure if someone loves them”
Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles
“Peter Marren’s charming, up hill and down dale odyssey to seek out Britain’s rarest wild flowers is made truly memorable by his astounding botanical knowledge, so comprehensive and yet so lightly-worn”
Michael McCarthy, author of The Moth Snowstorm