The richness and variety of the world’s plant life is so immense that no single publication could ever do it justice. The flowers mentioned in this Flower section only show a few examples of some of the different plant families that make up the vegetation of the five continents. Nearly a quarter of a million flowering plants are known and recorded and more are still being discovered. Some are extremely rare and local, while others range over huge areas, but apart from the frozen wastes of the Antarctic, high mountain tops and certain desert areas, flowers of one kind or another are found all over the world and every species is adapted to its natural environment.
All flowers, ranging from the common daisy to flamboyant tropical climbers, have a beauty of their own, and often the appeal of a small and simple wild flower is greater than that of a highly sophisticated man-made hybrid. The love of flowers goes back thousands of years in the history of mankind, and wherever there have been settled civilizations in the world, flowers have been used for religious or purely aesthetic purposes. In ancient Egypt and in China, in Persia and in the Aztec and Inca kingdoms of the Americas flowers were held in high esteem and it was in these places, rather than in Europe, that the cultivation of flowers first began.
There are still plenty of wild flowers in the world, but they have decreased alarmingly during the last two centuries, and will undoubtedly continue to do so with the increase of urban development and intensive cultivation of food crops. Many species are known to be threatened with extinction and often they are so difficult to grow anywhere except in their native habitat that they cannot even be saved through the efforts of horticulturists. The concentrated grazing of domestic live stock, extensive fires, the draining of marshes and the felling of forests, as well as the excessive use of herbicides and the commercial exploitation of rare plants such as tropical orchids, have contributed to the loss.
The wild flowers of the world are a precious heritage. Once lost, they are irreplaceable. Man with all his cleverness cannot create a new species. He can breed and select and hybridize and change the appearance of plants profoundly, and sometimes it seems that he goes too far and the results become garish and vulgar. It might perhaps be better if we paid more attention to the preservation of original wild species and resisted the temptation to improve them. Generations to come might well be more thankful for a wide and varied flora ofthan for too many opulent and enormous .
All the flowers detailed in this Flower section, are given their full scientific names and the name of the botanical family to which they belong. Popular names alone would only cause confusion, but the use of two Latin names, the first indicating theand the second establishing the exact species, identify a plant beyond doubt and are accepted the world over.