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British Plant Life

Author: W. B. Turrill
Pages: 336
Print on Demand: No stock held, printed to order.
Theme: Natural history
Format: Hardback
Publication Date: 14/07/2009
ISBN: 978-0-00-730805-7


There has been a great increase in knowledge of the composition, structure, and history of our flora in recent years. Dr. Turrill, Keeper of the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has contributed as much as any other botanist to this increase and has laid special emphasis on the integration of the older methods of classification with the more recent techniques of ecological and genetical research. The resulting story, though not yet complete, is as exciting as a first-class detective novel.

In the present volume emphasis is placed on the gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge and it is suggested how readers with a flair for accurate observation and simple experiment can help towards completing the story.

In the broad sense, the British flora can be regarded as an offshoot of that of the European continent. The influence of geographical position and geographical history has, however, resulted in distinct peculiarities, and, above all, there have been the modifications produced by the last great Ice Age. How much was destroyed and how much survived this catastrophe is discussed by Dr. Turrill. The various routes of migration are traced as far as possible and the changes in climate and the advent of man are shown to have led to profound alterations in the flora.

The plants illustrated in the plates are those of special scientific interest on account of their origin, distribution or behaviour. They include rarities depicted for the first time in their natural habitats by coloured photography.


‘The New Naturalist series has brought a refreshing breeze into the stuffy literature on natural history. And we have now come to look forward to new volumes in this series, well written, beautifully produced, and awakening interest in some fresh feature on Britain’s countryside. This book is […] in every way up to the standards of its predecessors, a clear and substantial exposition of plan geography in Britain and it includes chapters on the geological history of the British flora, the story of plant fossils and the light they throw on the evolution of plants, the effects of glaciation, the plant communities to be found in Britain today, and some chapters on variation and heredity among plants. There are useful maps and plant distribution and over seventy excellent photographs […] Dr. Turrill’s book deserves a wide and varied public, from botany student to country squire. The text is serious reading by a distinguished botanist, a striking contrast to the frothy print that serves to eke out the pictures in so many books on nature study.’ Manchester Guardian

‘A fascinating and highly successful attempt to explain to the intelligent reader some of the factors that have determined the range and form of British plants […] Schools and colleges will find his book indispensable […] it is indeed a triumph that one volume should, in text and illustrations, unite so much beauty with the strict discipline of science.’ Western Mail