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Kidnap victim's tips to plant experts

PUBLISHED: 16:15 03 March 2010 | UPDATED: 11:30 12 August 2010

A PLANT-hunter who was kidnapped while searching for rare orchids will give a talk to other botanists later this month.

A PLANT-hunter who was kidnapped while searching for rare orchids will give a talk to other botanists later this month.

Times gardening correspondent Tom Hart Dyke was held captive by Marxist guerrillas in the volatile Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia for nine months in 2000.

He will be recalling his experiences to other enthusiasts at the Royal Horticultural Society's London Orchid Show, at Linley Hall, Westminster, on Saturday, March 21.

Despite the horrific ordeal he shared with fellow Brit Paul Winder, he admitted that speaking at such a prestigious event was making him nervous.

Mr Hart Dyke said: "It will be a bit nerve-wracking to be honest because I have never done anything like this for an audience of other botanists.

"I will be recalling my experiences and it will focus on my time in the Darien Gap and how we got into the hostage situation.

"Although it is very rare to get kidnapped when looking for plants, some of these guys will regularly visit volatile places in Asia and South America."

Although the self-confessed "plant-nut" has not been on a specific trip to find orchids since his ordeal, he still counts them as his favourite species of plant. He plans to build an enclosed botanical garden at Lullingstone Castle where he has his World Garden of Plants attraction.

He added: "As a species orchids really have captured the public's imagination.

"We have a few examples at the moment but if we have a warm area in the pipeline we will try to get some more in. I have seen a very rare slipper orchid in Borneo which could become extinct, and it really was something else. It would be fantastic if people could experience this."

Mr Hart Dyke has no plans to go on any expeditions in the coming months as he is concentrating on preparing the Lullingstone Castle venue for its Easter opening.

Read more of Tom's tales in Green Man in Times Out.

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