top of page
Winner of the 2023 Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Literature Award

Shortlisted for the 2023 Wisconsin Library Association best work of nonfiction

Longlisted for the 2023 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

One of Literary Hub's
Most Anticipated Books of 2022

"A garden of delights." -Kirkus Reviews

A kaleidoscopic journey into the world of nature’s most tantalizing flower, and the lives it has inspired.

The epitome of floral beauty, orchids have long fostered works of art, tales of adventure, and scientific discovery. Tenacious plant hunters have traversed continents to collect rare specimens; naturalists and shoguns have marveled at orchids’ seductive architecture; royalty and the smart set have adorned themselves with their allure. In Orchid Muse, historian and home grower Erica Hannickel gathers these bold tales of the orchid-smitten throughout history, while providing tips on cultivating the extraordinary flowers she features.

Consider Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria, the two most powerful women in nineteenth-century Europe, who shared a passion for Coelogyne cristata, with its cascading, fragrant white blooms. John Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, cultivated thousands of orchids and introduced captivating hybrids. Edmond Albius, an enslaved youth on an island off the coast of Madagascar, was the first person to hand-pollinate Vanilla planifolia, leading to vanilla’s global boom. Artist Frida Kahlo was drawn to the lavender petals of Cattleya gigas and immortalized the flower’s wilting form in a harrowing self-portrait, while more recently Margaret Mee painted the orchids she discovered in the Amazon to advocate for their conservation.

The story of orchidomania is one that spans the globe, transporting readers from the glories of the palace gardens of Chinese Empress Cixi to a seedy dime museum in Gilded Age New York’s Tenderloin, from hazardous jungles to the greenhouses and bookshelves of Victorian collectors. Lush and inviting, with radiant full-color illustrations throughout, Orchid Muse is the ultimate celebration of our enduring fascination with these beguiling flowers.

W. W. Norton & Company

December 2022 / 320 pages

133 illustrations; 89 color illustrations

Orchid Muse high res cover_edited.jpg
Asset with CBHL Winner.png
Screenshot 2023-09-22 at 12.30.29 PM.png

Orchid Muse is shortlisted (top five) for the

Wisconsin Library Association's Best Nonfiction Award of 2023!

The winner will be announced at the annual conference in

Madison at the end of October.

Orchid Muse won the
Council on Botanical & Horticultural Libraries
2023 Annual Literature Award, their top prize!

It is given to a work that makes a significant contribution to the
literature of botany or horticulture.
LitAwards_LonglistSeal_Full Color.png
Orchid Muse was longlisted for the
2023 PEN America E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award!

It was honored as one of the top ten books submitted for the prize,
out of a field of 1,800.

Orchid Muse listed as one of WSJ's best gifts in the

2022 Holiday Books Issue

Orchid Muse was reviewed by the amazing garden writer and environmental advocate Dominique Browning in "Two Books on Orchids" in the same issue!

Literary Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2022
lit hub 2022 most anticipated 2.jpeg
Screen Shot 2022-07-27 at 2.03.03 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 10.50.28 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 10.49.09 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 10.49.43 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-08-31 at 3.46.27 PM.png
Publishers Weekly
August 3, 2022
PW Aug 3, 2022.png
Booklist cover sept 1 2022.png
Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 10.24.17 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-09-16 at 10.23.58 AM.png
Media, Interviews & Fun
4.4 Kahlo-Henry Ford Hospital La Cama Volando-Alamy.jpg

Read Scientific, Sexual and Sentimental: What Frida Kahlo Saw in the Orchid, an excerpt of my Orchid Muse chapter Frida Kahlo's Orchid, published by Literary Hub!

new scientist.webp

Grab a sneak peak at a "flamboyant selection of images" from Orchid Muse in New Scientist! The article also ran in UK Today News and Acti World

Screen Shot 2022-11-20 at 2.33.03 PM.png

Does Orchid Muse pass Ford Madox Ford's Page 99 Test? Find out in my short piece in the Campaign for the American Reader!

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 5.30.53 PM.png

Listen to my in-depth interview about the history of orchids with Madison's WORT 89.9 FM host Douglas Haynes.

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 5.23.08 PM.png

I wrote From Science to Story: Nonfiction and Audience about my process for writing Orchid Muse for

Top 5 Orchid Books.jpeg

Want to know my top five favorite books on orchid history and culture? Find out in an article I wrote for

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 5.16.05 PM.png
Are you a Taurus? News Postus proclaimed Orchid Muse the perfect book to read for Tauruses in December 2022.
Rafael Taming Orchid.jpeg

A fabulous chat with YouTuber Rafael Furtado of Taming the Orchid! (Don't miss our must-have desert island orchids!)

Screen Shot 2022-11-23 at 4.01.08 PM.png

Want to know why (and how) Orchid Muse was written? Check out the story in my hometown newspaper

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 5.05.05 PM.png
Book Riot highlights Orchid Muse as a new release for 2022.

See my tips--along with other expert advice--on designing indoor living spaces with orchids and other houseplants on the Redfin blog

Praise for Orchid Muse
1.6 Darly, The Flower Garden 1777-Alamy copy.jpg

"If flowers are how plants have sex, orchids are the sexiest ‘harlot-nymphs’ of them all, as Erica Hannickel reveals in this delightful and exquisitely explicit ode to orchidelirium."
― Adam Leith Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters

"A fascinating survey of one of the world’s most intriguing (and provocative!) blooms, complete with lush illustrations and fascinating historical anecdotes. This book is an enchanting read for any gardener, house plant enthusiast, or history lover."
― Jessica Roux, author of Floriography

"A fun fascinating romp through the history of the world’s favorite flower."
― Bruce Rogers, author of The Orchid Whisperer

"Erica Hannickel’s gorgeously illustrated Orchid Muse is a reader’s delight― crammed with fascinating stories about everything orchid, from the pleasure gardens of the Chinese Empress Cixi to the shoguns of feudal Japan, a nineteenth-century female science fiction author with a passion for botany, the dime museums of Manhattan’s Tenderloin district, a little-known work by Charles Darwin, and the twelve-year-old slave boy who solved the mystery of vanilla pollination. This rich and delightful story of the voluptuous orchid is bound to convert all who encounter it to what the Victorians called orchidelirium."
― Rebecca Rupp, author of How Carrots Won the Trojan War


"Here is a collection of stories made not only for those readers already passionate about orchids but also for the rest of us who had no idea of the history, drama, and sensual energy behind these flowers. At turns ambitious, entertaining, and surprising, Hannickel’s work rewrites the story of orchids to include women, queer people, and people of color from around the globe. Perhaps the greatest thing about this book is how it draws our focus to the intimate details of creation, inviting our gaze, seducing us into the voluptuous, delicate beauty of a natural world that ultimately―and more desperately than ever―depends on our care."

― Paul Bogard, author of The End of the Night


"Orchid Muse is a delightful assemblage of some of the less-known vignettes in orchid history. The cultural information and tips are a perfect jumping point for any reader who wants to take the enthusiasm she inspires for orchids beyond the pages of her book."

― George Guenther, Orchid Horticultural Curator, Atlanta Botanical Garden


"Orchid Muse is a joyful reminder of why I fell in love with botany―a fascinating read for the expert and those who can hardly discern orchids from okra."

― Douglas Holland, Director, Peter H. Raven Library, Missouri Botanical Garden


"At a time when women’s rights are being challenged and there is increasingly strong socioeconomic disparity in the world, readers will particularly enjoy reading about Charles Darwin’s anti-slavery efforts through orchids and 1880s New York City’s Eden Musée, a dime museum 'crowded with orchid lovers whose favorite flowers had helped them pretend to transcend class and gender barriers for a time.' Each page of Orchid Muse offers new insight into the history of orchids."

― Brenda Oviatt, co-owner, Botanica Ltd.

bottom of page