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Literary Festival Spotlight: The Orchid Hunter

The Orchid Hunter: a summer in search of our tresses and twayblades

On one of the strangest pre-university gap years you’ve ever heard of, Leif Bersweden spent the summer of 2013 hunting down all 52 species of wild orchid native to Britain and Ireland. He introduces his book, The Orchid Hunter, which tells the personal tale of this summer long quest. As he travels all over the country, from the shores of the Channel Islands to the grassy pastures of the Brecon Beacons, from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to the wind-swept coasts of the Outer Hebrides, Leif teaches us about some of our most extraordinary native plants, the history of orchid hunting in Britain as well as sharing stories of his childhood growing up to love plants. As Alys Fowler, writing for Gardens Illustrated, puts it, ‘Bersweden is everything you’d expect from a young man on the cusp of adulthood: enthusiastic, impatient, competitive, naïve, joyful and delightfully nerdy’.

Leif Bersweden says:

“I’m really excited to be talking to you about my summer-long hunt for British and Irish orchids! I’ll be speaking about my adventures, reading from The Orchid Hunter and hopefully persuading you that botany is actually really cool. Come and marvel at the orchids to be found one our doorstep. I missed my mother’s 50th birthday party to go orchid hunting, but I wouldn’t miss the Garden Museum’s Literary Festival for the world.”

Leif Bersweden has had a lifelong interest in nature, focusing on plants from the age of seven. He grew up in rural Wiltshire where he taught himself how to identify the local flora and now regularly leads plant identification training courses for The Species Recovery Trust. Leif graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biology and is now a PhD student at Kew Gardens, where his research focuses on orchid genetics. In a world where an interest in botany is becoming increasingly rare, he wants to help put plants back on the map and is endeavouring to do this through his teaching, research and publications.

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