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.