In the great tradition of Darwins Voyage of the Beagle, this book is a first-person narrative
of daunting travel and scientific discovery in the little-known country of Myanmar.
Dr. Kress explored many areas in this enigmatic country, surveying its teak forests,
bamboo thickets, timber plantations, rivers, and mangroves to document its incredible
botanical diversity. Myanmar is one of the great biodiversity hot spots in Asia, but
because of its social isolation and reputation for political repression it has been closed
to—or avoided by—many scientists. Nevertheless, Dr. Kress was determined to search
for and record plants that had not been studied since they were first discovered by
Western botanists over a century ago. Among the rarities he came upon was a new species
of plant called the weeping goldsmith, a ginger flower whose Burmese name was
derived from the legend that the local goldsmiths were reduced to tears because none
of their own creations could rival its exquisiteness.
Dr. Kress also relates how he came to appreciate the people and culture of
Myanmar through an understanding of their flora, natural habitats, and human-dominated
environments. Included are fascinating excerpts from his field journals that serve
as counterpoints to the accounts of earlier plant explorers. Illustrating the text are some
200 of Dr. Kresss own color photographs of the incredible plants, people, landscapes,
and temples he witnessed in his travels as well as 30 archival images of Burma taken by
past explorers. The back matter features an illustrated portfolio of representative native
This lively armchair exploration should appeal to a general readership as well as to
botanists, conservationists, and environmentalists.
W. John Kress is a Curator of Botany and Research Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution. He is the co-author of A checklist of the trees, shrubs, herbs, and climbers of Myanmar and Plant Conservation — A Natural History Approach, and has written many botanical articles. Wade Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and has written many books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River, and Light at the Edge of the World.