The best books to immerse you in plants

Who am I?

My life has always been intertwined with plants. As a kid I would explore the old cemetery behind our back garden, where I would climb trees and swing from branches, pretending I was in the rainforest. I amassed quite a collection of natural history books too. I’d pore over them, memorise the names of the plants they contained, and copy the pictures, scribble them all down on paper; I think I always knew I would write and illustrate books myself one day. Today, as a botanist, I am fortunate to see beautiful plants in their natural habitats all around the world. I seek to capture the beauty I see in words. 

I wrote...

Weird Plants

By Chris Thorogood,

Book cover of Weird Plants

What is my book about?

Weird Plants takes you on an adventure into a world in which plants trick, steal and kidnap – plants you could scarcely imagine even exist, from carnivores that drug insects to orchids that bamboozle sex-crazed bees. The book is illustrated with the author’s hyper-real oil paintings inspired by his encounters with plants around the world. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Nature-Printer: A Tale of Industrial Espionage, Ferns and Roofing-Lead

Why did I love this book?

This little book is a thing of beauty and I just find it spell-binding. Talented artist and printmaker Pia Östlund describes how she makes a curious discovery: a set of prints in the library of Chelsea Physic Garden in London. This leads her to rediscover the lost technique of nature-printing, while her co-author Simon Prett explores the history of this little-known art. Little snippets about fern hunting and facsimiles of fern fronds and seaweeds make this irresistible – the kind of book I’d dip into on a lazy Saturday morning over coffee, then struggle to dip back out of!  

By Simon Prett, Pia Östlund,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nature-Printer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Glasshouse Greenhouse

By India Hobson, Magnus Edmondson,

Book cover of Glasshouse Greenhouse

Why did I love this book?

I grew up in a house choked with books – falling out of the shelves and piling onto the floor. I developed a curious habit as a child: I would sniff the pages of every book I picked up. Some smell old, like vanilla and time, I discovered; others smell fresh, like rain after a drought. Well, Glasshouse Greenhouse smells so good it’s worth buying for its perfume alone! Seriously though, this is a visual treat, packed full of emerald-green plantscapes on every page. The authors start their journey around the world’s glasshouses just metres from where I sit typing these words at my place of work, Oxford Botanic Garden. To me, this makes it particularly special. 

By India Hobson, Magnus Edmondson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Glasshouse Greenhouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Glasshouse Greenhouse fuses together cultures and countries under one glass roof. In their debut book, photographers India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson take you on a worldwide journey through their favourite botanical spaces.

The Haarkon Greenhouse Tour began as a self-initiated adventure in Oxford's botanic garden four years ago. Since then, Magnus and India have visited countless locations in the UK, Europe, America, Asia and beyond in search of dream glasshouses and greenhouses, capturing dramatic palm houses, tropical hothouses and private potting sheds along the way.

Divided into seven thematic chapters - History, Specimen, Community, Research, Pleasure, Hobbyist and Architecture -…

Book cover of The Long, Long Life of Trees

Why did I love this book?

There is something innately calming about trees, isn’t there? Even just thinking about them. Today I often read about something called Forest Bathing. I’m told it refers to being calm and quiet amongst the trees – absorbing something from them in a way that nourishes the soul. Well, that’s what this book does for me. Fiona allows us to pause and admire the common trees around us; she leads us among seventeen common species including ash, apple, pine, oak, cypress, and willow, pointing out along the way how they are entwined with human existence. 

By Fiona Stafford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long, Long Life of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lyrical tribute to the diversity of trees, their physical beauty, their special characteristics and uses, and their ever-evolving meanings

Since the beginnings of history trees have served humankind in countless useful ways, but our relationship with trees has many dimensions beyond mere practicality. Trees are so entwined with human experience that diverse species have inspired their own stories, myths, songs, poems, paintings, and spiritual meanings. Some have achieved status as religious, cultural, or national symbols.

In this beautifully illustrated volume Fiona Stafford offers intimate, detailed explorations of seventeen common trees, from ash and apple to pine, oak, cypress, and…

Book cover of The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit

Why did I love this book?

When it’s cold and dreary outside and you long for sunnier climes, this book is just the tonic. Helena delves into the story of Italian history through the country’s citrus fruits, combining history, recipes, horticulture, and art. The Land Where Lemons Grow left me with the jasminy smell of orange blossom fixed to my nostrils long after I put the book down. 

By Helena Attlee,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Land Where Lemons Grow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Land Where Lemons Grow is the sweeping story of Italy's cultural history told through the history of its citrus crops. From the early migration of citrus from the foothills of the Himalayas to Italy's shores to the persistent role of unique crops such as bergamot (and its place in the perfume and cosmetics industries) and the vital role played by Calabria's unique Diamante citrons in the Jewish celebration of Sukkoth, author Helena Attlee brings the fascinating history and its gustatory delights to life.

Whether the Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, the gardens of Tuscany, or the story of the…

Book cover of Flora Illustrata: Great Works from the Luesther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden

Why did I love this book?

This is a satisfyingly large tome with sumptuous prints and illustrations from ancient texts, gardens, and herbals that spill out on every page and give it a sort of timelessness. Flicking through it now, the page that opened in front of me features a facsimile of a 1748 book, complete with foxing; it is so real I could reach out and touch it. This is something I’d put on top of the coffee table book pile and feel happier just to know it’s there, replete with its botanical treasure. 

By Susan M. Fraser (editor), Vanessa Bezemer Sellers (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flora Illustrata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exquisitely illustrated volume in celebration of the world's foremost library of botanical works

The renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden counts among its holdings many of the most beautiful and pioneering botanical and horticultural works ever created. More than eight centuries of knowledge, from the twelfth century to the present, are represented in the library's collection of over one million items. In this sumptuously illustrated volume, international experts introduce us to some of the library's most fascinating works-exceedingly rare books, stunning botanical artworks, handwritten manuscripts, Renaissance herbals, nursery catalogs, explorers' notebooks, and more. The…

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