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The Smallest Kingdom front cover image front cover image of The Smallest Kingdom book, published by Kew Publishing The Smallest Kingdom

Plants and Plant Collectors at the Cape of Good Hope

The Smallest Kingdom is a beautifully illustrated and lively account of the botanical exploration of South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom and the plants that this region has given to the gardens of the world. The Cape is the ancestral home of, for example, pelargoniums ('geraniums'), freesia, gladioli and agapanthus. The discovery and development of these and many more are described in the book.

Over Kew’s 250 year history, Cape plants and their collectors have contributed greatly to the Royal Botanic Gardens success and reputation.

The book is illustrated throughout with full colour botanical paintings, historical illustrations, and contemporary photographs. The Smallest Kingdom will appeal to gardeners, botanists, historians, botanical artists, naturalists, and visitors to the Cape.


The Smallest Kingdom open book showing pelargonium page.

Mike and Liz Fraser lived at the Cape for 12 years, spending much of their time immersed in its wonderful landscapes and wildlife. They were awarded the prestigious Marloth Medal of the Botanical Society of South Africa for promoting the conservation of the region’s unique and spectacular flora through their best-selling books "A Fynbos Year" and "Between Two Shores".

Click on open book (left) to see more pages.




220pp. 280 x 238mm. 100+ full colour botanical paintings; numerous historical illustrations and contemporary photographs. Hardback. £28 from Kewbooks.

ISBN: 9781842463895 - Kew Publishing 2011

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'Botanical Art in the 21st Century', Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Botanic Gardens, Richmond. 8 February – 10 August, 2014.

Paintings from The Smallest Kingdom were also on show at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical art, Kew, until 9th April 2012 as part of the Plants in Peril exhibition. In 2013, Liz's Haemanthus painting was included in the 'Botanical Art into the Third Millennium' exhibition at the Museo della Grafica, Pisa, Italy.


"An extraordinary and enjoyable new book on plant hunters." Monterey County Herald

"...I'd buy it for Mrs Fraser's watercolours alone, which hold up their heads beside the lavish selection of plates from earlier botanical artists. But Mr Fraser's text combines scientific and social history in ways both expert and entertaining - ways that show that the interests of botany, conservation and horticulture are often, and necessarily, compatible." Country Life

"Mike Fraser presents his detailed research in digestible sections that are peppered with interesting and sometimes amusing vignettes... Liz Fraser's sumptuous botanical paintings and studies from her sketchbook illustrate the book" Gardens Illustrated.

"...To add to Liz's paintings the resources of Kew's art collection (and other sources) have been ransacked for historical images, to add great richness to this beautifully designed book. Wit is apparent in, for example, the inclusion of Beatrix Potter's picture of Peter Rabbit knocking over pots of pelargoniums as he flees Mr. McGregor's impending boot, and the love of the Frasers for the Cape flora shines through the book." John Grimshaw's Garden Diary

"This is the perfect book for the plant collector, the obsessive, the gardener always in search of a rarer and rarer plant. It's a fascinatingly detailed account of plants collected from South Africa's Cape and the spread they have made across the world. Written as a proper academic history but illustrated with the most glorious botanical art, this is a heavyweight book that brings one of the richest contributors of flora and fauna to the gardening world to life." Fennelandfern blog