The orchid is the most evocative of flowers, inspiring in some of its admirers a fanaticism akin to madness, as recently demonstrated in Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. This elegant survey of the orchid treats its place in legend and suggests the impact that these exotic plants, whose "exuberance and heavy, sensual beauty . . . seemed to bear witness to some original sin." Berliocchi chronicles the adventurers and scientists who introduced these marvels, discusses their place in the arts, from literature and magic to cuisine, and concludes with accounts of the most important genera and their cultivation. Splendidly illustrated with period engravings and botanical paintings, it is literate and delightful.