Featuring many stunning illustrations from the Kew archives, Orchid: A Cultural History tells, for the first time, the extraordinary story of orchids and our prolific interest in them. It is a tale sure to enchant not only gardeners and plant collectors, but anyone curious about the flower's obsessive hold on the imagination in history, cinema, literature, and more. Orchids are beloved for their singular, instantly recognisable beauty.
Found in nearly every climate, the many species of orchids have carried symbolic weight in countless cultures over time. The ancient Greeks associated them with fertility and thought that a parent who ingested the orchid root could determine the gender of a child. During the Victorian era, orchids became deeply associated with romance and seduction. And in twentieth-century hard-boiled detective stories, they transformed into symbols of decadence, secrecy, and cunning.
Jim Endersby offers a unique cultural history of this captivating family of plants, revealing their allure and wonder. Following the stories of orchids throughout history, Endersby divides our attraction to them into four key themes: science, empire, sex, and death, and explores how these have shaped orchids and how orchids, in return, have shaped our own investigations and associations.