The Scent of Scandal
Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid

Craig Pittman

Foreword by Raymond Arsenault and Gary Mormino, Series Editors

Paper: $22.95
Add Paper To Cart
"FANTASTIC. If I did not know most of the main players I would have thought the author had a vivid and twisted imagination."--Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida

"A fascinating true story of obsession, greed, and lust for the unobtainable. Reminds me a great deal of The Maltese Falcon. This rare flower is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of."--Ace Atkins, author of Devil's Garden and Infamous

"Pittman has captured the extreme competition, unique characters, and general insanity that often typify the orchid world. The Scent of Scandalexemplifies how passion and profit can overrule common sense and the law."--Scott Steward, former associate editor, North American Native Orchid Journal

After its Peruvian discovery in 2002, Phragmipedium kovachii became the rarest and most sought-after orchid in the world. Prices soared to $10,000 on the black market. Then one showed up at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where every year more than 100,000 people visit. They come for the lush landscape on Sarasota Bay and for Selby's vast orchid collection, one of the most magnificent in the world.
The collision between Selby's scientists and the smugglers of Phrag. Kovachii, a rare ladyslipper orchid hailed as the most significant and beautiful new species discovered in a century, led to search warrants, a grand jury investigation, and criminal charges. It made headlines around the country, cost the gardens hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and led to tremendous internal turmoil.
Investigative journalist Craig Pittman unravels this tangled web to shine a spotlight on flaws in the international treaties governing trade in endangered wildlife--which may protect individual plants and animals in shipping but do little to halt the destruction of whole colonies in the wild.
The Scent of Scandal unspools like a riveting mystery novel, stranger than anything in Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief or the film Adaptation. Pittman shows how some people can become so obsessed--with beauty, with profit, with fame--that they will ignore everything, even the law.

Craig Pittman is an award-winning journalist who writes about environmental issues for Florida's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. He is the coauthor of Paving Paradise and author of Manatee Insanity.
Sample Chapter(s):
Table of Contents

Florida Book Award for Florida Nonfiction, Silver - 2012

"Deserves to be read by everyone in the orchid world."
--Cats and Catts (blog)

"Reading this book is like watching a car wreck in slow-motion: you know what's going to happen but you can't look away…the book focuses on what happens when greed, betrayal and obsession collide with national and international laws designed to protect natural resources from over-exploitation."
--The Guardian (UK)

"Incredible reading…. Fuse[s] investigative reporting and true-crime writing to create the pace and tension of a great detective novel."
--Sarasota Herald-Tribune

"A story with as many twists and turns as Hammett’s ‘Maltese Falcon,’ and just about the same amount of greed, jealousy, backstabbing and subterfuge."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"[An] engaging saga of orchidophiles….A huge cast of supporting characters—including cops and lawyers—builds the suspense of Pittman’s intriguing account, which includes a multi-year investigation, a handful of court cases and a plagued aftermath."
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"An in-depth portrait of a weird, sometimes dangerous mania."
--Tampa Bay Times

"Pittman's … zeal for his subject is admirable."
--Kirkus Book Reviews

"This well-written work will sustain the reader's interest throughout as the controversial story of this intoxicatingly exquisite orchid unfolds."

"An eye opener of a good read into the intrigue behind an important discovery in the orchid world, a cast of infamous characters, and a seemingly innocuous and benign institution…Pittman, as an experienced newspaper reporter and writer, has grasped the essence of a good story…His acutely honed ability to ignite a sense of excitement and incredulity is eident in the fast-paced, lively text."
--American Orchid Society

"Follow[s] the orchid story through all of its twists and turns and finally to the criminal court system."
--Keys News

"Pittman…tells the tale…with a keen ear for dialogue, cliffhangers galore and the tenacity to hack through a virtual jungle of lies and buck-passing."
--Gainesville Sun

"Pittman is a master of capturing personalities in visual descriptions and self-revealing quotes."
--Society of Evironmental Journalists

"The scandal that plays out within this 242 page hardback is as addictive a read as any on a Best Seller list."
--Chadwick and Son Orchids (blog)

"Describes in fascinating detail the events that led to Kovach's arrest on two felony charges and subsequent trial…one of the most entertaining orchid books to come along in years."
--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Tells how a newly discovered slipper orchid…ignited a political firestorm from Peru to Washington D.C., exposed the dark underbelly of orchidophile culture, and nearly toppled Sarasota’s famed Marie Selby Botanical Gardens….A specific and surprising take on the corrupting power of greed…an exciting read."
--Florida Book Review

"He has this whole thing picked down to the bottom."

"Takes readers on a wild globetrotting trek… Pittman introduces a large cast of eccentric, flower-crazed characters who have seemingly stepped out of an 'Indiana Jones' flick, hunting the Holy Grail of orchids."

"This is a page-turner—with real people, real emotions, good intentions, devious actions, careless decisions, and a very beautiful plant."
--Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas

"A deeply weird story."
--The Daytona Beach News-Journal

--Creative Loafing Tampa

"Deserves to be read by everyone in the orchid world."
--Cats and Catts (blog)

"A tale about treaties and trade, science and smuggling, and the pursuit of a passion so powerful that not even the threat of prison deters those afflicted."
--Forum Magazine

"Pittman engages the reader in an unlikely world of crime and mischief."
--Authentic Florida (blog)

Of Related Interest