This is a book themed on plants, not to be confused with a gardening book. A collection of fifty chapters on disparate plants (agave, chilli pepper, coconut, olive and forty six others), it is filled with delightfully written random pieces of information. So the chapter on pineapple includes the Wardian case (a vital piece of equipment for transporting plants back alive on very long sea voyages, though it was originally designed for studying moths), a dissertation on the evolution of the glasshouse – and with that, the invention of Bakelite – along with a note about Mr Dole from Hawaii, a name immortalised on the tins of pineapple in our supermarkets. It is full of such curious, eclectic and wide ranging content, ideal for those who like to pick up a book and browse randomly in the hope that some day they may come up with the right answer in a quiz. But more than that, it is underpinned by a little bit of sound botany and wrapped up in a medium format hardback, packed with lovely botanical paintings, historical works of art, imagery and muted, modern photography. The English are masters of understated quality.
(Allen and Unwin; ISBN: 978 1 74237 218 1).