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Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679771832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679771838
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At first blush, the subtitle of intrepid traveler Eric Hansen's floral account might seem, well, hyperbolic. After taking this whirlwind tour of the hidden world of rare orchid collectors, the reader will find the words well chosen. Hansen invites us into a strange demimonde of intrigue and desire, at the center of which is the orchid, that shadowy and somewhat sinister parasitic oddball of the plant kingdom. Orchid raising and trading is big business. Worldwide, the retail economy in orchids adds up to some $9 billion; in the United States, wholesalers ship nearly 8.5 million plants a year, while in Holland a single nursery produces 18 million. "Several million people worldwide now grow orchids," the author notes, "and this botanical craze has already eclipsed both the nineteenth-century frenzy for orchids as well as the tulip madness that gripped the Netherlands in the seventeenth century."

With such willing customers, it's no wonder that a thriving black market now exists. To serve it, orchids are taken illegally from sensitive ecological areas in places like Thailand, Borneo, and darkest Minnesota. In scenes reminiscent of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, Hansen follows the trail of orchid smugglers, pursuing money and plants in a whodunit tale that involves botanical gardens, scholars, scientists, ordinary enthusiasts, and "plant cops"--international eco-police whose job it is to stop the traffic in rare and often endangered plants. Those vigilantes have their work cut out for them, Hansen writes, especially because some of the current laws may be misguided, causing more harm than good and equating honest breeders with botanical desperadoes. The laws are bound to fail in any event, he suggests, if only because the plant trade, like that of the drug trade, is simply too big to curtail.

Orchid enthusiasts and admirers of good journalism alike will find plenty of interest in Hansen's vivid, richly anecdotal investigation. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the same vein as Susan Orlean's Orchid Thief, this captivating tale is not so much about flowers as it is about obsession. In various chapters (some of which have appeared in Natural History magazine), Hansen (Stranger in the Forest; Motoring with Mohammed) examines different facets of the mysterious world of orchids, a universe of incredible subterfuge, erotic plant names and some very eccentric characters. He visits Borneo with two orchid growers and two Penan guides who are extremely puzzled about such enthusiasm over a flower that serves no medicinal or nutritive purpose. Hansen also interviews 84-year-old Eleanor Kerrigan, who in her Seattle basement greenhouse cultivates an illicit orchid collection worth $70,000. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has a strict policy about certain types of orchids, and many orchid growers and collectors, it turns out, operate on the wrong side of that policy, resulting in an underworld that, as the author notes, resembles the illegal drug trade. Hansen manages to talk to the secretive Henry Azadehdel (a cause c?l?bre in the orchid world since he was arrested for orchid smuggling in 1987) and travels to Turkey to taste orchid ice cream, which is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that after five years of research he has become as obsessed with his subjects as they are with their flowers ("Orchids were doing strange things to me"). The results are fully enjoyable. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Each chapter reads like a delicious short story.
Barbara Sentovich
I highly recommend his book to anyone who has ever been the slightest bit intrigued by the mystery and beauty of orchids.
Rebecca James
I have read Eric Hansen's Traveling with Mohammed and Stranger in the Forest with much satisfaction.
Patrick E. Roth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Joseph Arditti on March 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"In my 40 years as an orchid scientist, author and book editor, I have never read anything quite like ORCHID FEVER. It is part absurdist black humor and part horticultural expose. Mr. Hansen displays a rare talent for capturing the allure of orchids, describing the dubious characters who lurk in the shadows, and exposing the small handful of self-appointed power brokers who rule the orchid world. Frightening, funny and full of tantalizing insider knowledge. And yes...there are strange and wonderful stories about orchids as well. I have a distinct feeling that what was left unsaid about several people is much more interesting than what was written. I look forward to a no holds barred second edition."
Dr. Joseph Arditti Editor, Orchid Biology Irvine
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on July 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Whether you happen to be an orchid lover, or merely a curious bystander, "Orchid Fever (A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy)" will have you by turns helpless with mirth and seething with indignation, or else simply agog with incredulity from start to finish. For it is, quite simply, an absolutely stunning piece of investigative journalism, dressed up as a tale of personal obsession and eccentricities. Written using plain language and with an outstanding witticism, it makes for compelling reading throughout, whether or not you know anything about orchids, or the orchid-growing and trading communities that it explores.
Chapter by chapter, alternating hilarious episodes with the downright unsettling or just plain unbelievable, Eric Hansen gradually lays bare the seedy underbelly of a world that perhaps few of us realise exists. He reveals an alarming world-wide conspiracy, fuelled by greed, protected and upheld by idiotic international bureaucracy and a network of power politics, which daily threaten innocent lives and legitimate livelihoods as well as vast swathes of natural fauna that they purport to be protecting.
Populated as it is by gentle, likeable heroes, blackguardly villains, utter buffoons and the most outrageously bizarre of characters, it is sometimes easy to forget that this book is factual, so far-fetched are some of the events and scenarios that its author recounts. And yet, this somehow makes the book all the more scary, for occasionally things happen to make you realise that it is not a work of fiction. And at that point, the anger sets in... anger that things should be this way and are likely to remain so, despite the best efforts of some of the book's obvious heroes.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joe Shwartzer on April 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Hansen has done a fantastic job combining his experiences, research, observation, and writing to provide us with a revealing look at "the orchid world". I found this expose both entertaining, and also a bit disturbing because it made me realize that although I have only been growing orchids for 2 1/2 years, by virtue of owning and caring for approximately 200 plants and joining a local orchid society and the American Orchid Society, I have become part of the "orchid world" described in the book even though I had not planned things that way! (A fellow orchid society member/neighbor of mine and local paphiopedilum specialist has helped me become interested and active in his hybridization program. This neighbor/specialist knows many of the people Mr. Hanson writes about in Orchid Fever!)
This book is a fast read because Hansen's style includes frequent utilization of humor. The vivid descriptions of the personalities Mr. Hanson encountered and the places he visited while preparing to write this book are captivating and entertaining.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Patrick E. Roth on May 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read Eric Hansen's Traveling with Mohammed and Stranger in the Forest with much satisfaction. I enjoy travel and adventure books and both of these fit my interests. My knowledge about orchids is very limited and I doubt I would have read Orchid Fever until I heard of a new book by Mr. Hansen.
"Orchids" I said, by Hansen? Well I bought it and now I am trying not to buy one of these orchid creatures. The orchid world described by Hansen encompasses all the world has to offer; life, beauty, culture, pleasure, excitement, and the mis-use of power and guidance of those entrusted with political and regulation ability. It is strange how organizations such as CITES are created to preserve, protect, and educate and the results appear to be less than desirable.
Another book to be read and enjoyed by Mr. Hansen. I would recommend it to anyone, not just orchid lovers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The only thing that aggravates me more than CITES is an accurate book on how truly awful the situation really is. Having mired through the CITES mess as it relates to orchids for several years now, I was surprised to find so many other growers in the same boat. The author presents a cogent expose of the magnitude of the problem, both in terms of how many people are affected by it, but by how those allegedly working to conserve these species are often ignorant, corrupt, or thieves themselves. This book is said to have researched this subject for seven years; having read the book and, based on what I know from acquaintences and my own personal research on the subject, I have found it to be absolutely accurate- more than can be said about similar books, best left nameless. Hansen has produced a book that would outwardly appear to be dull-as-dishwater boring, but I managed to consume it in 5 hours. It is alarming that a book on a subject so esoteric as laws concerning orchid "conservation" should be so accurate, particularly from someone who would appear to be from outside the realm. I would recommend this book to those involved in rare plant horticulture, orchids in general, and those involved with CITES, conservation, or other environmental concerns.
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