It is an austere building, at the back of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, which conceals secrets and wonders: eight million dried plants, three hundred and fifty years of picking and pressing, the fruit of a mad rush fed by the appetite of explorers and conquerors who threw themselves wholeheartedly into the clearing of a vast, then rich and unknown nature…
Welcome to the world’s largest herbarium – where everything rustles, lives, bears witness… Where we learn that plants take their time and require attention. Marc Jeanson knows this, as a child he was passionate about animals, until a cutting, forgotten on a window corner, germinated without his knowledge… A few years later, a trip to Senegal, where he discovered the splendour of the palm trees, confirmed his vocation. To be a botanist is to love the land, the mud, the clouds. And the unknown: those who gave their names to plants, discovered and classified them, and elevated the pleasure of wandering to the rank of science… sometimes risking their lives.
Marc Jeanson, now in charge of the Herbarium, pays tribute to these plant inventors: Tournefort, Adanson, Lamarck, Pierre Poivre, Monsieur Aymonin, Léon Mercurin, in this beautiful novel of botany which also reveals the daily life of a profession, and the reality of expeditions to territories that have been sacrificed in some cases, and whose rare surviving palms can be discovered by chance in hotel car parks…
Plants are not in books or coasters, they are our world, our climatic history, our landscape, our future. Mixing portraits, stories, forgotten histories, scientific thoughts, Marc Jeanson offers us an unclassifiable and luxuriant book.
Marc Jeanson – Charlotte Fauve