Botanist Explorers of Two Continents

Plants have been hunted since the days of the Pharaohs, writes William Seymour; but, in more recent times, two resolute Scottish botanists led particularly adventurous and courageous lives.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Loudon noted that out of 13,140 plants being cultivated in Britain, only 1,400 were native. Perhaps not many of those who now visit our gardens and parks, are aware of the sweat and agony that went into the introduction of so many of the plants they see.

‘Good God! When I consider the melancholy fate of so many of botany’s votaries I am tempted to ask whether men are in their right minds who so desperately risk life and everything else through their love of collecting plants.’

Thus Carl Linnaeus, the great Swedish botanist, writing in 1737. But it all began many years before that; indeed, the first recorded plant-hunting expedition was mounted on orders of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt in 1482 B.C., when she sent ships to the coast of East Africa to collect seeds and plants for her gardens at Kar-nak.

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