Pathless Forest

Pathless Forest

The Quest to Save the World’s Largest Flowers


The incredible story of one man's obsession to find and protect the world's largest flowers

As a child, Chris Thorogood dreamed of seeing Rafflesia - the plant with the world's largest flowers. He crafted life-size replicas in an abandoned cemetery, carefully bringing them to life with paper and paint. Today he is a botanist at the University of Oxford's Botanic Garden and has dedicated his life to studying the biology of such extraordinary plants, working alongside botanists and foresters in Southeast Asia to document these huge, mysterious blooms.

Pathless Forest is the story of his journey to study and protect this remarkable plant - a biological enigma, still little understood, which invades vines as a leafless parasite and steals its food from them. We join him on a mind-bending adventure, as he faces a seemingly impenetrable barrier of weird, wonderful and sometimes fearsome flora; finds himself smacking off leeches, hanging off vines, wading through rivers; and following indigenous tribes into remote, untrodden rainforests in search of Rafflesia's ghostly, foul-smelling blooms, more than a metre across.

We depend on plants for our very existence, but two in five of the world's species are threatened with extinction - nobody knows how many species of Rafflesia might already have disappeared through deforestation. Pathless Forest is part thrilling adventure story and part an inspirational call to action to safeguard a fast-disappearing wilderness. To view plants in a different way, as vital for our own future as for that of the planet we share. And to see if Rafflesia itself can be saved.


  • Over the years, Rafflesia has bewitched botanists — its very elusiveness adding to its mystique. For Thorogood, who already specialised in parasitic plants, it became the apex of them all. He was Captain Ahab; this was his own great white whale
    Tom Whipple, The Times

About the author

Dr Chris Thorogood

Chris Thorogood is a botanist and lecturer at the University of Oxford, where he holds the position of Deputy Director and Head of Science at Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, and a Visiting Professor at the University of the Philippines. His research focuses on the evolution of parasitic and carnivorous plants, taxonomic diversity in biodiversity hotspots around the world, and biomimetics - exploring the potential applications of plants in technology. An author and broadcaster, he makes regular appearances on TV and radio and is also an award-winning botanical illustrator and wildlife artist. Obsessed with plants, he is on a mission to make us see them differently, and realize how we, they, and our planet, are all connected.
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