A legacy of adventure and discovery
England's Plant Hunters: A Legacy of Adventure and Discovery
England has a rich history of plant hunting, dating back to the 16th century, when the first botanic gardens were established in the country. Plant hunting was a combination of science and adventure, as collectors and explorers traveled to new and exotic lands to find new plant breeds to bring back to England. These plant hunters played a crucial role in expanding the world's knowledge of botany and horticulture and helped create the diverse and beautiful gardens England is known for today.
One of the most famous plant hunters was John Tradescant the Elder, who was born in England in the late 16th century.
Tradescant was a horticulturist and collector who was appointed Keeper of the King's Gardens by King Charles I. He is best known for his travels to the Near East, where he collected a large number of plant species new to England. Many of these plants, including the tulip, hyacinth and crocus, became popular in English gardens and are still grown today.
Another notable plant hunter was William Sherard, who was born in England in 1650. Sherard was a botanist and a fellow of the Royal Society who traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East and Africa to find new plant breeds. He is particularly remembered for his contributions to the study of botany, including his extensive collection of dried plant specimens and the classification of plant races.
Another famous plant hunter was James Lee, who was born in England in 1715.
Lee was a seed trader and plant collector who made several trips to China to find new plant species. He is best known for introducing the camellia to England, which has since become a popular garden plant. Lee's legacy lives on today, as his seed business was the first to offer a wide variety of plants to the public.
In the 19th century, plant hunting reached new heights of popularity and adventure, as explorers and collectors traveled to remote parts of the world to find new species. One of the most famous plant hunters of this time was Robert Fortune, who was born in Scotland in 1812.
Fortune was a botanist and plant collector who made several trips to China to find new plant breeds, including tea plants, which he later introduced to India. Fortune was a pioneer in plant hunting, and his travels and discoveries had a major impact on the world's knowledge of botany and horticulture.
The biggest inspiration was possibly Lady Clare. Elizabeth Gordon was born in the late 18th century. She was a woman of great wealth and status, known for her passion for horticulture and love of nature. Born into a family of botanists, she inherited their love of plants, becoming an accomplished gardener and horticulturist herself. She was widely respected and admired in society, not only for her social position, but also for her contribution to the world of botany.
Elizabeth Gordon, also known as Lady Clare, was a woman ahead of her time. She was one of the first to employ plant hunters to travel the world in search of new and exotic plants for her extensive collection. These plant hunters would bring back new plant species, including tea plants, which she later introduced to India. Lady Clare was a pioneer in plant hunting and her travels and discoveries had a profound impact on the world's knowledge of botany and horticulture. One of the most famous plants brought back by one of Lady Clare's plant hunters was a beautiful species of camellia. The plant was named after her, Camellia x williamsii 'Lady Clare', also known as 'Lady Eliza's Ghost'. The story behind this name is the stuff of legends. It is said that Lady Clare had a passion for the camellia plant and in particular Camellia x williamsii. Lady Clare was a lady who often visited other gardeners and their gardens, unbeknownst to anyone else, Lady Clare walked around these gardens with her pockets full of seeds, seeds which she secretly sprinkled around her as she went. It was always the seeds of Camellia x williamsii and eventually people began to notice that wherever Lady Clare went, this ghostly plant sprung up. Camellia x williamsii 'Lady Clare' continues to be a symbol of her love of botany and contribution to the world of horticulture, a beautiful and enduring reminder of the life and legacy of Lady Clare, Lady Eliza of the ghostly flower.