Profile Books, £8.99
Charles Darwin is rightly most famous for his work On the Origin of Species, but spent the greater part of his time in detailed experimentation, much of it looking at weird and wonderful plants. Insights from this work informed his great theory, but also answered questions that nobody else realised were even questions.
In Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants Ken Thompson delves into the various strands of botanical research that occupied Darwin, including the movement, carnivory and sex life of plants. In each of these main chapters Darwin’s research is described, including with concise quotes and illustrated with his original diagrams, placed in context and brought up to date with brief outlines of current research on the topic.
The writing style is both concise and informative, leavened with a sardonic humour throughout. The science is discussed clearly without getting bogged down in details or deviating from the main argument, and the technical details are carefully explained.
Ken Thompson’s Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants is an excellent read for amateurs and experts alike, casting a delightful light on a fascinating man and an intriguing subject.