Charles Elliott

Growing, Growing, Gone

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

By

Viking 217pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The world harbours some pretty odd plants. Growing in the Nazca Desert of Peru, for example, are Tillandsia (bromeliads otherwise known as air plants) that have been carbon dated as 14,000 years old. The rare Roussea simplex from the high altitude rainforest of Mauritius, described as ‘part liana and part shrub’, not only serves as host to hundreds of orchids but can also be pollinated only by the blue-tailed day gecko, itself nearly extinct. Then there is the Prosopis limensis, or huarango, a spiny tree of the pea family that can send down roots 250 feet in search of water. Its heartwood is second only to ironwood as the hardest in the world.

The problem is that many of these oddities – and thousands of others – are not only endangered but in many cases on the edge of extinction. When the last ones die, that will be the end. This is where Carlos Magdalena comes in.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,