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NEW DATE Friends’ lecture 2024: Pathless Forest:The Quest to Save the World’s Largest Flowers

Wednesday 20 March at 7:30 am to 9:00 pm

Please note the AGM and lecture will take place on Wednesday 20th March, rather than the previously advertised date of Thursday 21st March

Wednesday 20 March 2024
Annual General Meeting at 7pm followed by the Lecture at 7.30pm
The Annual report for the year ending 31 December 2023 will be available here shortly.


The lecture will not be offered by Zoom nor be recorded.

Dr Chris Thorogood

Pathless Forest:The Quest to Save the World’s Largest Flowers

The story of a childhood obsession to see the world’s largest flowers and his mission today to save them from extinction

Many of you will remember Chris when he was studying for his PhD at the University of Bristol and from a number of lectures he has given to the Friends. He joined our former Director, Professor Simon Hiscock at Oxford Botanic Garden where he is now Deputy Director and Head of Science, and a lecturer at Oxford University specialising in plant evolutionary biology, taxonomy, and biomimetics.

He is a leader in the field of parasitic plant biology and a visiting professor at the University of the Philippines. Known in the botanical world as the ‘illustrating botanist’and to the British public as a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, his extraordinary paintings are captured in full colour in his latest book. Telling a botanical adventure story like no other, Chris Thorogood highlights the problem of our cultural ‘plant blindness’ in order to recognise the importance of plant conservation to the health of the planet.

As a child there was one monstrously beautiful botanical image that called to him more than any other – Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, the blood-red, stinking, parasitic, metre-wide ‘corpse flower’ found only in the remotest jungles of South East Asia. Today Chris has spearheaded the work in a mission to save the world’s most iconic flower from the edge of extinction.

In 2022 Chris became the first Westerner to see Rafflesia banaoana in a frequently hair-raising expedition to the remote mountain ranges of the Philippines. Accompanied by local botanists and indigenous guides they braved leeches, kidnap, monitor lizards and lethal forest swamps to discover, identify, map and protect the habitats of the Rafflesia family of flowers, and then in Indonesia, to learn from Mr Ngatari, the only man in the world who has managed to propagate Rafflesia, how to graft and ultimately save these pandas of the plant world.

Pathless Forest reveals a world of extreme fieldwork and a veritable circus of rare botanical marvels – the foot long ‘toilet’ pitcher plant; agarwood with a perfume so valuable people will kill for it;  the jade vine which glows like a neon moon; the stinging tree which releases tiny toxic glass-like shards; recently discovered fairy lantern flowers that illuminate the forest floor like deep-sea coral; the dead horse arum which switches gender at night; a ‘lipstick’ plant which is new to science and found for the first time on this trip in 2022, and many more.

Chris’s book will be available for purchase at the lecture

 (With acknowledgement to Publicity officer, Annabel Huxley and Penguin Press)

This lecture will take place at the Frank Theatre, Wills Physics Laboratory, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TL. (This is where lectures took place before the pandemic.)

Lectures are free to Friends on production of their membership card and students on production of their student card. Guests will be asked for a donation (suggested £5).


Attendees can use the following University car parks: Sports Centre, The Hawthorns, Woodland Road (12, 15, 17 & 19) and University Walk

There is free on-street parking (ticket required) from 6:30pm on these streets: St Michael’s Park, Woodland Road (north), Priory Road

There is metered on-street parking on Tyndall Avenue, Elton Road and University Road.

For a map and detailed parking information please see the map linked below:

Friends Lectures Parking Guide and Map


Wednesday 20 March
7:30 am to 9:00 pm


Friends of the University of Bristol Botanic Garden


The Frank Theatre
Tyndall Avenue
BRISTOL, BS8 1TL United Kingdom
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