The Plant Thieves reveals remarkable stories from the National Herbarium of New South Wales. Who gets to collect plants, name them, propagate them, extract their chemicals, sell them and use them? Whose knowledge is it?
Prudence Gibson unearths remarkable stories of plant naming wars, rediscovered lost species, First Nations agriculture, illegal drug labs and psychoactive plant knowledge. Gibson reveals the tale of the anti-inflammatory plant that saved a herbarium manager when she was collecting in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. She also follows the story of the black bean Songline, a recent collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, to find the route of this important agriculture plant.
The Plant Thieves is both a lament for lost and disappearing species and a celebration of being human, of wanting to collect things and of learning more about plant life and ourselves.
About the author:
Prudence Gibson is an author and research academic in plant studies at Art and Design, University of NSW. She is lead investigator of an Australian Research Council project on the herbarium. She is the author of Janet Laurence: The pharmacy of plants and a contributor to Art and Australia, Sydney Review of Books and The Conversation.