Carlos Magdalena is a botanist working at Kew Gardens whose success in propagating and saving near-extinct plants earned him the sobriquet The Plant Messiah. It is a fitting nickname as he has a messianic determination to capture the seeds and cuttings to safeguard the future of plants on the edge of extinction–even going so far as to wade into waters with crocodiles, piranhas, and snakes.
The Plant Messiah is a fun and informative blend of action, adventure, and information. Much of his adventures seem a bit by the seat-of-his-pants, glimpsing blooms from his vehicle, asking his guides to stop here and there. There’s a bit of that in his experiments in propagating, too, trying different methods. The way he describes his process can sound like guesswork, but only if you think someone with years of experience and expertise is guessing.
I enjoyed The Plant Messiah a lot. He is a happy writer who loves his work and his enthusiasm bubbles up from every page. The book is full of adventures and fascinating information about plants and what is happening in the plant world. It’s fascinating to learn that a plant once believed extinct was found by a student on a roadside for a school assignment. My favorite parts were the many different ways plants can be pollinated. So tricky, so varied, it’s simply amazing.
Perhaps as a messiah, Magdalena is less people-oriented, so the other folks who are on these adventures are not even one-dimensional. This is his adventure. That also led to a misjudgment his editors should have caught and removed. Traveling in Peru, he is offered some human relics from an ancient burial ground and remarks grave-robbers in Peru would sell you anything even their grandmother. You know what, grave-robbers everywhere will sell you anything. It was an ugly moment in a book that is generally a fun and exciting read.
I received a copy of The Plant Messiah from the publisher through NetGalley