CHAS­ING THE GHOST: MY SEARCH FOR ALL THE WILD­FLOW­ERS OF BRI­TAIN

PETER MARREN, SQUARE PEG, £20

Countryfile Magazine - - Lazy Days -

Peter Marren is way ahead of most of us in the wild­flower-spot­ting game, and here he sets out to find the 50 species that he hasn’t yet ticked off from his tat­tered copy of Rev W Ke­ble Martin’s The Con­cise Bri­tish Flora.

Form­ing the life’s work of a coun­try vicar, who also il­lus­trated ev­ery plant therein, The Con­cise Bri­tish Flora – orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1965 when its au­thor was 88 – is as much of a musthave as Marren’s own lovely vol­ume.

Count­ing down from num­ber 50 (the Rad­nor lily), Marren takes us on a briskly sparkling jour­ney through­out the length and breadth of Bri­tain. His en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious, and he’s as­sisted by a fine cast of helpers, key­hold­ers to the likely where­abouts of these pre­cious jew­els.

The star of the show is the ghost or­chid (Epi­gogium aphyl­lum, pic­tured be­low) fa­mously elu­sive and a sym­bol of chang­ing times and, pos­si­bly, val­ues.

Marren walks hun­dreds of miles on his quest. He is wind­lashed, rain­soaked, and of­ten ends up in lit­eral deep water. His own mus­ings are poignantly search­ing: “When, I won­dered, did we lose our for­mer in­ti­macy with wild­flow­ers?”

The good news is that Marren’s book – and his clear love for the sub­ject – en­cour­ages us to re­gain that knowl­edge and look more closely at our nat­u­ral sur­round­ings.

And what of the ghost or­chid? No­to­ri­ously tricky, a will ‘o the wisp of a plant, on and off the ‘ex­tinct’ sta­tus for the past few years. Does he find it? There’s only one way to find out... Adele Nozedar, au­thor and for­ager

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