The Smallest Kingdom
South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope is a part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. It comprises a treasure trove of 1,100 species of indigenous plants, many of which have been exported to gardens and collections around the world, including London’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the publishing division of which has produced this book.
The authors, sometime Birdwatch columnist Mike Fraser and his wife Liz, lived on the Cape for more than a decade, so have much personal experience of the region’s flora. With text by Mike and more than 100 stunning watercolours by Liz, the book charts the history of botanical exploration of the Cape and the plantlife found there. Their work is complimented by quotations from eminent naturalists such as Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin and several reproductions of historical illustrations.
This lavish and eminently readable account of the history and flora of the Cape is beautiful – well written and a joy to flick through. It will surely appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of botany, gardening or the Cape.
• The Smallest Kingdom by Mike and Liz Fraser (Kewbooks, London, 2011).
• 220 pages, more than 100 colour paintings; numerous historical illustrations and contemporary photographs.
• ISBN 9781842463895. Hbk, £25.