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The Cabaret of Plants: Botany and the Imagination

The Cabaret of Plants: Botany and the Imagination

Richard Mabey

We depend on plants for almost everything, whether food, oxygen, or the pleasure and relaxation provided by landscapes and gardens. And, as Richard Mabey reveals in this lyrical and highly original exploration of our relationship with plants, we have always seen them as far more than simply attractive or useful. Their extraordinary existences have challenged our imaginations, inspired our achievements, and may provide a road-map to a more fruitful, sustainable future for us all.

From Ice Age cave art to cutting-edge research into how mimosas learn and remember, Mabey traces the history of our imaginative encounters with them including his own. Along the way, he reveals how medieval physicians and indigenous shamans used myths to explain how one plant could kill and another nourish, introduces the Enlightenment thinkers and poets who puzzled over carnivorous plants, and the Victorian engineers who made an Amazonian waterlily the blueprint for the Crystal Palace.

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, transgressive artists and grass roots botanophiles. 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. 374 pages.

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