CHASING THE GHOST: MY SEARCH FOR ALL THE WILDFLOWERS OF BRITAIN
PETER MARREN, SQUARE PEG, £20
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