The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species

Carlos Magdalena is a man on a mission: to rescue and propagate the world's disappearing plants, and to spread the gospel of conservation. A Spaniard and a senior horticulturist at London's Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, he has crisscrossed the world on plant-finding adventures. His memoir, The Plant Messiah--Magdalena's nickname--chronicles his journeys to Mauritius, the Australian outback and other remote places in pursuit of rare specimens.

Magdalena begins with an account of his childhood in Spain and afternoons spent gardening with his mother. Eventually landing in London, he talked his way into an internship at Kew. Like the thousands of species housed in Kew's gardens and greenhouses, Magdalena has flourished there, becoming a champion for vulnerable plants. "Obsession and passion are the key," he writes. Like any zealot, he possesses both in spades.

While Magdalena may be a science geek, he writes for the interested layperson. Though his narrative is sprinkled with scientific names and botanical illustrations, he explains his techniques for capturing and conserving plants in clear, simple prose. Readers will learn about plants they never knew existed, especially the dizzying varieties of Magdalena's beloved waterlilies. Throughout the book, Magdalena returns to his key message: plants are vital to the health and survival of our planet, and all of them (or as many as possible) must be saved. He concludes with a few practical suggestions and a ringing call to "garden our way out of this apocalypse, green up the world, and plant our future." Amen. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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