Confucius called them the “king of fragrant plants,” and John Ruskin condemned them as “prurient apparitions.” Across the centuries, orchids have captivated us with their elaborate exoticism, their powerful perfumes, and their sublime seductiveness.
But the disquieting beauty of orchids is an unplanned marvel of evolution, and the story of orchids is as captivating as any novel. As acclaimed writer Michael Pollan and National Geographic photographer Christian Ziegler spin tales of orchid conquest in Deceptive Beauties: The World of Wild Orchids, we learn how these flowers can survive and thrive in the harshest of environments, from tropical cloud forests to the Arctic, from semi-deserts to rocky mountainsides; how their shapes, colors, and scents are, as Darwin put it, “beautiful contrivances” meant to dupe pollinating male insects in the strangest ways. What other flowers, after all, can mimic the pheromones and even appearance of female insects, so much so that some male bees prefer sex with the orchids over sex with their own kind?
“Orchids are one of the most diverse and successful families of plants, and can be found in almost every corner of the world. Christian Ziegler captures their beauty through his spectacular photographs, unveiling their mysteries and giving us an insight into their fascinating natural history.”—Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History
“The images are stunning, a glory of colors and shapes, but this book offers much more. Ziegler—a trained biologist, as well as photographer—shows these remarkable plants in the context of their habitat: marsh, semi-desert, tropical forest. That—and his astonishing photographs of orchids and their pollinators—reminds us how clever, precious, and diverse nature can be, and why conservation matters.”—Chris Johns, editor in chief, National Geographic Magazine