The Smallest Kingdom – a background

Having lived at the Cape for a decade and with a couple of books and various other projects under our belts, we decided that a fitting finale to our time there was to look at the plants that the region has given to the gardens of the world, and then follow them back to Britain, arguably the country where Cape plants have made their greatest impact in cultivation. So we spent a useful couple of years wandering around the Cape catching up with rare plants and targeting those areas where the original collectors had made their discoveries over the last four centuries.

Back in Scotland, research for the book found us in various institutions, libraries, gardens and nurseries on the hunt for interesting subjects. Fossicking through dusty documents and fragile pressed flowers, including Francis Masson's original specimens, in the various libraries and herbaria provided an astonishing resource of archival material and the findings of modern research.

Mike standing next to Francis Masson's cycad at Kew.

Mike with Francis Masson's cycad at Kew, the oldest pot plant in the world.

Far more material was gathered or written than could be accommodated in the limited page space of The Smallest Kingdom. While this may be a relief to some, there are others who would like to find out more about a particular subject. So we will be adding bits and pieces to our website to provide more background to the topics covered in the book, plus any related information and news. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, what there is in The Smallest Kingdom owes much to the interest and support we have received from many people. These include folk that we worked with at the Cape, particularly at the University of Cape Town where Mike was a post-grad student at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (the Fitztitute). We also made many friends who had a passion for the plants and other wildlife of the Cape Floral Kingdom that quickly infected us.

Photographic credits page

Research links page

Cape plants page