A Fragile Eden: Portraits of the Endemic Flowering Plants of the Granitic Seychelles

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Princeton University Press, 1998 - Nature - 216 pages
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This is an extraordinary book, filled with beautiful full-color illustrations of some of the world's most unusual plants. It transports readers to a band of ancient and remote islands located a thousand miles off the coast of Africa. These islands, the Seychelles, have been geologically isolated for more than seventy million years. They include the only islands in the world that are formed of granite. In their long isolation, the native flora of these thirty-two granitic islands remained untouched until the late eighteenth century. Since then, however, inroads have been made in their natural environment by human settlement, by the introduction of cinnamon and its rapid spread over many of the islands, and by present-day tourism. Slowly these fragile plants have been overrun and many are now endangered.

Most of the plants first described one hundred years ago are still found today, but many are becoming increasingly rare. Some cling to existence with only a few specimens to be found, often in remote locations. In 1985 the Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Seychelles studied the vegetation on several of the islands. Rosemary Wise, the department's artist, was asked to accompany the expedition. She became alarmed that the rapidly disappearing species might go unrecorded and made it her mission for the next ten years to paint all of the endemic flora in their natural habitat. She has written an accompanying text (with a contribution by Malcolm Coe) to describe this unique flora.

The Seychelles are home to plant species found nowhere else. Perhaps the most famous is the "double coconut" (Lodoicea maldivica), a photogenic tree that has become synonymous with the islands. The illustration of this unique palm, like all of the illustrations contained in the book, was painted from firsthand observation. The large format, superb printing, and informative descriptions of A Fragile Eden allow the reader to appreciate the author's obvious passion for these plants. The book will appeal to a wide audience, including professional botanists, ecologically-minded travelers, and anyone who enjoys tropical plants or botanical art.


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A fragile Eden: portraits of the endemic flowering plants of the granitic Seychelles

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This beautiful book provides exquisite watercolor botanical paintings of all the endemic flowering plants of the granitic group of Seychelles Islands, which are located in equatorial waters 1000 miles ... Read full review



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About the author (1998)

Rosemary Wise is the botanical artist in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford. She has traveled widely to draw and paint plants throughout the world. On a freelance basis, she has worked regularly for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and has contributed illustrations to numerous books and journals. In 1995 the Linnean Society of London awarded her the Jill Smythies Medal for published botanical illustration.

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