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The Orchid in Lore and Legend

By Luigi Berliocchi

The orchid is the most evocative of flowers, inspiring in some of its admirers a fanaticism akin to madness, as demonstrated in Susan Orlean's popular novel The Orchid Thief. This elegant survey of the orchid treats its place in legend and suggests the impact that these exotic plants had on the temperate European mind. Berliocchi chronicles the adventurers and scientists who introduced these marvels, discusses their place in the arts from literature and magic to cuisine, and concludes with accounts of the most important genera and their cultivation. Splendidly illustrated with period engravings and botanical paintings, it is literate and delightful.

Media reviews

"Period color plates, black-and-white illustrations, and woodcuts enhance this wonderfully entertaining book."

Library Journal

"Exquisite botanical illustrations complement the definitive text."

—Rebecca Sawyer-Fay, Country Living Gardener

"A remarkable new book that combines the legends, history, science and growing of orchids by the home gardener."

—John Van de Water, Newark Star-Ledger

"A welcome addition to the growing genre of literary works devoted to orchids."

Library Journal

"Berliocchi's comprehensive handbook is both elegantly written and enriching."

Publishers Weekly

"An authority on orchids ... provides nice thumbnail biographies of the major collectors and botanists who brought orchids from the tropics."

—Judith Taylor, Garden Gazette

"Charming period drawings and glorious full-color plates illustrate this fact-packed book."

—Susan Knorr, Fairchild Tropical Garden

"This elegant survey of the orchid suggests the impact that these tropical wonders had on the temperate European mind."

Wisley Bookshop

"A marvelous tour of the orchid's history. ... A must for lovers of orchids and botanical history."

—L. St. Hilaire, Northeastern Naturalist

"The numerous high-resolution black-and-white illustrations represent the wealth of botanical art devoted to orchids during the last millenium."

—Rosalie Davis-Payette, Journal of the New England Garden History Society

"An utterly fascinating survey of orchids."

—Connie Krochmal, Washington Daily News

"Anyone who wants to find out why there is such a fuss about orchids should take a gander at this book."

—Naomi Buckman, Conway Daily Sun

"A beautiful book and ... a valuable addition to the library of any orchid lover."

Bella Online

"If you wish to explore the who, how, and why in relation to orchids, this book should have an answer."

—Yoneo Sagawa, Hawaii Orchid Journal

"Provides an excellent history of the orchid's attraction to all, surveying the myths and legends of many cultures and the circumstances of orchids in the wild and cultivated. Period engravings and botanical paintings pepper the treatise."

Midwest Book Review

"The book is so much fun to read. You should give yourself a present and purchase several copies to give to friends interested in plants in general and orchids in particular."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"This well-researched book is an important addition to the world of orchid growers."


"This book covers history, trivia and the adventures of the great orchid collectors and orchids in the arts, medicine and cooking."

—Marianne Binetti, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"This is a very delightful, readable book."

—Joanne S. Carpender, National Gardener

"This book, which spans every aspect of the plant from literary associations to care and cultivation, is a love letter to a genus from a man clearly passionately obsessed."

Gardens Illustrated

"There has been no better book than this on the extraordinary story of the orchid."

—Adrian Higgins, Washington Post

"Berliocchi's perceptive and richly descriptive narrative is certain to please orchid lovers, and will most likely spark the interest of those who have yet to discover these fascinating flowers."


"A must-read for anyone growing orchids — or planning to, for that matter."

—Lynette Walther, Palatka Daily News

"It's an intriguing compilation of the history, botany, folklore and medicinal value of this exotic plant. This extraordinary book is a tribute, a love letter, to a wonderful plant."

—Virgil Rupp, East Oregonian

"That Luigi Berliocchi loved orchids and their history is obvious and infectious. He shares this love and sense of mystery with the reader ... through his literate and accessible writing style. This is a book that every orchidophile, amateur or expert, should own."

—Jerry Garner, Illinois Orchid Society Newsletter

"This is an amply researched and richly descriptive cornucopia of orchid lore."

American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter

"It is a quick, yet satisfying initiation, a brisk walk through a museum that leaves one acqainted, if a little breathless, with an amazing collection of lovely plants."

—Rosalie Davis-Payette, Journal of the New England Garden History Society

"Entertaining throughout."

—Joseph Arditti, Plant Science Bulletin

"A delightful book."

Current Books on Gardening and Botany

"For the orchid lover who not only wants to know the plants but also wants some background information."


"It is [a] lively and relaxing interlude that can add to one's orchid knowledge in a painless fashion."

—Andy Easton, Orchids

"It is a reference book not just for its cornucopia of information but for the wealth of engravings and paintings that adorn almost every page."

—Henry F. Oakeley, Orchid Review

"Whether orchids are just beginning to lure you with their beauty or they have you completely under their spell, this book has something for you."

Hawaii Horticulture

"If your gift list includes an orchid enthusiast — from amateur to professional — add this book to your shopping cart."

—Gerri Bauer, Daytona Beach News-Journal

"A fascinating account of the impact of orchids on our lives, and an ideal gift for the orchidophile."


About the author

Luigi Berliocchi

Luigi Berliocchi (1953–1999) was a lecturer in garden history at the University of Reggio Calabria. He also wrote the text for Vanished Gardens of Rome as well as a study of the origin and history of Mediterranean plants and their presence in art.

Read more about Luigi Berliocchi

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