The Cabaret of Plants (Ebook)

Botany and the Imagination

Richard Mabey

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A Mabey magnum opus:'Mabey's finest, an eclectic world-roaming collection of stories ... lacing colour, intimacy and emotional texture around the scaffold of hard facts.' (Spectator)

In The Cabaret of Plants, Mabey explores the plant species which have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty and belief.

Picked from every walk of life, they encompass crops, weeds, medicines, religious gathering-places and a water lily named after a queen. Beginning with pagan cults and creation myths, the cultural significance of plants has burst upwards, sprouting into forms as diverse as the panacea (the cure-all plant ginseng, a single root of which can cost up to $10,000), Newton's apple, the African 'vegetable elephant' or boabab - and the mystical, night-flowering Amazonian cactus, the moonflower.

Ranging widely across science, art and cultural history, poetry and personal experience, Mabey puts plants centre stage, and reveals a true botanical cabaret, a world of tricksters, shape-shifters and inspired problem-solvers, as well as an enthralled audience of romantics, eccentric amateur scientists and transgressive artists. The Cabaret of Plants celebrates the idea that plants are not simply 'the furniture of the planet', but vital, inventive, individual beings worthy of respect - and that to understand this may be the best way of preserving life together on Earth.

Publication date: 22/10/2015

£8.99

ISBN: 9781847654014

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Travel & Nature

The Cabaret of Plants (Paperback)

Botany and the Imagination

Richard Mabey

A Mabey magnum opus:'Mabey's finest, an eclectic world-roaming collection of stories ... lacing colour, intimacy and emotional texture around the scaffold of hard facts.' (Spectator)

In The Cabaret of Plants, Mabey explores the plant species which have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty and belief.

Picked from every walk of life, they encompass crops, weeds, medicines, religious gathering-places and a water lily named after a queen. Beginning with pagan cults and creation myths, the cultural significance of plants has burst upwards, sprouting into forms as diverse as the panacea (the cure-all plant ginseng, a single root of which can cost up to $10,000), Newton's apple, the African 'vegetable elephant' or boabab - and the mystical, night-flowering Amazonian cactus, the moonflower.

Ranging widely across science, art and cultural history, poetry and personal experience, Mabey puts plants centre stage, and reveals a true botanical cabaret, a world of tricksters, shape-shifters and inspired problem-solvers, as well as an enthralled audience of romantics, eccentric amateur scientists and transgressive artists. The Cabaret of Plants celebrates the idea that plants are not simply 'the furniture of the planet', but vital, inventive, individual beings worthy of respect - and that to understand this may be the best way of preserving life together on Earth.

Publication date: 06/10/2016

£10.99

ISBN: 9781861979582

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Travel & Nature

Reviews for The Cabaret of Plants

'Enraptured, visionary, witty and erudite'

 Daily Telegraph

'His language is as rich as the flora he describes ... he makes his case utterly convincingly'

 Times

'A happy tangle of beautiful stories and studies from a career that has stepped between science and poetry ... We are lucky to have him.'

 Observer

'One of this century's most influential passages of natural history writing ... meticulously detailed and rhapsodically narrated ... a magnificent book.'

Mark Griffiths Country Life

'A treat not to miss ... the prose is so gorgeous it makes you want to clap'

Dominic Couzens BBC Countryfile

'The finest current flowering of a great British tradition ... it makes you feel that your home is much bigger and stranger than you ever imagined and it makes you glad -- no, astounded -- to be alive.'

 The Sunday Times

'Mr Mabey is the kind of person you wish you had with you on every country walk, identifying, explaining, deducing, drawing on deep knowledge lightly worn.'

 Country Life

'Wonderfully thought-provoking... of all his 30-plus books this is surely among his finest, an eclectic world-roaming collection of stories... lacing colour, intimacy and emotional texture around the scaffold of hard facts.'

 The Spectator

'Mabey is on eloquent form in this portrayal of plants not as dully functional components of natural capital -- a "biological proletariat" -- but as unruly, autonomous and endlessly fascinating. This engaging scientific and cultural tour takes in ice-age engravings of plant forms; ancients and giants such as bristlecone pines and baobabs; the vast biodiversity of maize (corn); and, as touched on by plant scientist Ian Baldwin (Nature 522, 282-283; 2015), Erasmus Darwin's discovery of "irritability" in Mimosa pudica more than 200 years ago.'

Andrew Jermy Nature Microbiology

'Left me delighted - and seeing the world a little differently'

Robert Macfarlane 

'There are so many delights to be found in The Cabaret of Plants - from the hunt for the elusive Amazonian moonflower, to the wonder of self-rejuvenating yews that defy efforts to determine their age, to the sprouting of an extinct Judean palm from a 2,000 year-old excavated seed - and Mabey keeps us enthralled from first to last.'

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi Washington Independent Review of Books

'The summation of a lifetime of looking at plants and reflecting on them ... the book reads as a happy tangle of beautiful stories and studies from a career that has stepped between science and poetry'

Tim Dee Observer

'Mabey's book lets us see plants as subjects rather than objects, arrayed in all their colours, performing miraculous tricks, dances and acrobatics'

Jenny Uglow Wall Street Journal

Richard Mabey

Richard Mabey

Richard Mabey is one of our greatest nature writers. He is the author of some thirty books including the bestselling plant bible Flora Britannica, Food for Free, Turned Out Nice Again, Weeds: the Story of Outlaw Plants and Nature Cure which was shortlisted for the Whitbread, Ondaatje and Ackerley Awards. His biography, Gilbert White won the Whitbread Biography Award. A regular commentator on radio and in the national press, he was elected a Fellow in the Royal Society of Literature in 2012. He lives in Norfolk.

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