Meet the Indiana Joneses of the botanical world
Why do they do it? Not for fortune or fame--few outside horticultural circles know who they are. (When's the last time you thought about where the plants you buy originated?) Whether they send their finds to commercial growers or propagate and sell the plants themselves, these three hunters agree: The real payoff is the thrill of discovery.
Home base: Tucson
Travels to: Mexico, western Texas
Memorable misadventure: Two year ago in Mexico, he was stopped by police three times in one day--and had to pay bribes each time. "High temperatures and occasional intestinal distress you get used to. Dealing with bribes and blockades you don't. But finding a new plant that looks like it has possibilites makes it all worthwhile."
Home base: Indianola, Washington
Travels to: Asia, including Sikkim in northeastern India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America.
Memorable misadventure: "In 2002, we were robbed by Maoist rebels and held for ransom twice on a Nepalese expedition, and the hotel next to us in Kathmandu was bombed on the same trip. Rebels and terrorists are the worst danger there."
Home base: Sauvie Island, Oregon
Travels to: Northern Mexico, South Africa, South America, and the West
Memorable misadventure: While scouting in South Africa, Sean spotted some succulents that blended in with the surrounding rocks. Completely entranced by the plants, he moved in for a closer look, not noticing a deadly four-and-a-half-foot ringhals cobra, coiled to strike. "The snake was as well camouflaged as the plants. I jumped back at the last minute!"