Our mission is to share the wonders of the natural world by publishing books from experts in the fields of gardening, horticulture, and natural history. Grow with us.

Plants from the Edge of the World: New Explorations in the Far East

By Mark Flanagan and Tony Kirkham

Foreword by Roy Lancaster

Well written, never dry, often exciting, sometimes hilarious.


In October 1987, a great storm drove in from the English Channel, devastating the southeastern counties of the British Isles. Huge gaps opened in the landscape of England, and the historic tree collections at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, and Wakehurst Place in West Sussex lay fallen. The storm exposed the mortality of heritage trees for all to see and provided the impetus for a new wave of plant collecting by the Royal Botanic Gardens, led by the enterprising Mark Flanagan and Tony Kirkham. The losses sparked a realization: the collections at Kew and Wakehurst Place lacked key representatives of the world's temperate woodlands, and to fill the gaps, Flanagan and Kirkham looked east, to the species-rich temperate forests of Korea, Taiwan, eastern Russia and Japan. These hidden corners of the Far East became their hunting ground. Plants are at the heart of this story, and the descriptions convey the excitement of the find. The narrative unfolds with an immediacy that makes us feel right there beside them as they uncover rarities like Cotoneaster wilsonii (found only on the remote island of Ullung-Do), hang off the side of a gorge to collect the seed of Magnolia sieboldii and endure a punishing day in search of the Taiwan beech. Vividly illustrated with color maps and photographs, this entertaining travelogue will appeal to travellers, plant-lovers and anyone with an interest in the rich diversity of flora of the Far East.

Media reviews

"Well written, never dry, often exciting, sometimes hilarious, the book allows the reader to experience events in an immediate way through the use of first-person narrative."

—Penny McCook, Sida, Contributions to Botany

"The authors set the scene in the exotic and remote places they explore, making the reader feel the tension, the cold, the fatigue, but most of all the adventure of the places they are exploring."

—Margaret Norem, Desert Plants

"Marvelous photographs and wonderful maps; I recommend this book to any and all plant lovers."

—Peter Kendall, American Rhododendron Society Journal

"A wonderful travelogue, this book will transport you into the rich and diverse flora of the Far East. This is plant-hunting writing at its best."

—Madeleine Wilde, Kirkland Courier

"These journeys are engagingly described and beautifully photographed. I have yet to come across a description of any plant-hunting excursion so well-written and encompassing as much history, geography, climate, culture and botany as this one."

—Patricia A. Taylor, Trenton Times

"A wildly entertaining, vividly illustrated travelogue describing the exciting hunt for rare tree specimens. ... Their book details, with illustrations, their many exciting adventures and discoveries in some very distant corners of the world."

Publishing News

"The story they tell in Plants from the Edge of the World is fascinating."

—William Grant, Pacific Horticulture

"A rare and wonderful trove of plants encountered along the way is described enthusiastically amid the breathtaking scenery of panoramic gorges, pristine mountainsides, and monolithic trees. Armchair botanists will enjoy each fascinating journey to the outer reaches of distant continents and the authors' accounts of successful plant cultivation back in England."

—Alice Joyce, Booklist

"Anyone who loves to travel, loves plants, and has a yen for all things Asian will love Plants From the Edge of the World, a travelogue with a lot of heart."

Biology Digest

"Written in a most delightful way ... should be read by all those who have an abiding love of plants and those who are not as familiar with them as they would like to be."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"Simply stated, a good book ... The value of [Flanagan and Kirkham's] travels cannot be overestimated."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"Kirkham and Flanagan's skillfully worded narrative is the next-best thing to being there."

—Suzanne Hively, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The narratives are full of detail, yet go at a good pace, as Mark and Tony brave wild strangers, snakes, swamps, swarms of mosquitoes, swollen rivers, and foul food to collect their seeds."

—Martyn Rix, International Dendrology Society Yearbook

About the authors

Mark Flanagan

Mark Flanagan is Keeper of the Gardens in Windsor Great Park, where he is responsible for the world-renowned Savill and Valley Gardens as well as the gardens at Frogmore and Royal Lodge. He lectures widely and contributes regularly to horticultural journals.

Read more about Mark Flanagan

Tony Kirkham

Tony Kirkham is Head of the Arboretum and Horticultural Services at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, where he cares for the existing heritage landscape and woody plant collections and maintains the integrity and development of the living scientific plant collections. Tony lectures internationally, runs workshops and has published papers on a wide range of subjects.

Read more about Tony Kirkham

View large jacket image

This book is no longer available

Unfortunately, we don't have any copies of this book for sale.

Similar books