Potted Histories

An artistic voyage through plant exploration

Sandra Knapp

Through botanical paintings and insightful essays, Potted Histories examines the fascinating history of plants and flowers. Over 20 plant families are profiled, including cacti, daffodils, iris, magnolias, poppies, roses, tulips and water lilies.

978 1 902 68628 8
October 2003
285 x 270 mm
336 pp
Co&Bear/Scriptum Editions in association with the Natural History Museum


Throughout history, plants have affected our lives, even shaping societies. Holland's infamous tulip craze is legendary. The seventeenth century spice trade was so profitable that stevedores who unloaded nutmeg from the boats had to wear coveralls without pockets since a single nutmeg was worth a fortune.The natural history of the plants is itself an engrossing topic. The book covers how plants have adopted remarkable behaviours for survival in a variety of harsh habitats. One such plant is the dead horse arum, a putrid-smelling plant that adapted to compete with dead birds to attract pollinating carrion flies.

Plants that gardeners now take for granted could once be found only in remote and hostile regions. Potted Histories tells the remarkable stories of the adventurous botanist explorers who braved disease, slave traders, war, jungles and other dangers to collect plants now commonly grown in our own gardens.

These pages are graced with hundreds of stunning colour illustrations selected from the vast collections of original botanical paintings archived at the Natural History Museum, London.

The French edition of this book - Le Voyage Botanique - was winner of the 2004 Pierre-Joseph Redouté Prize. This prestigious award founded in 2000 celebrates the best garden books published in the French language.

About the author

Sandra Knapp is an internationally respected botanist and an expert in the taxonomy and phylogeny of the nightshade family. She took up her current post at the Natural History Museum in London as one of the editors of Flora Mesoamericana, an international collaborative project to provide an integrated identification guide to the plants of southern Mexico and Central America. 

She is the author of several books on botany and its history, including Footsteps in the Forest and The Gilded Canopy, and is actively involved in improving the public understanding of science.


Find out what others think of this book.

"Potted Histories is a lovely book charting the histories of plants as recorded by botanical paintings and essays. A great winter read."

Garden Answers

"...An entrancing and informative book."