Plant History


RBG Kew has estimated there are some 420,000 different plants in the world.  
The earliest evidence of plant life began about 136 million years ago.  
Every gardener throughout the world should be aware that the global choice they make of the plants they buy and grow in their gardens has a direct bearing on the survival of that plant whether in the wild or in cultivation and in effect each garden is a Noah’s ark of plant conservation ‘Wherever it is, your land cannot fail to produce its native plants’. 
: Walafrid Strabo c. 808-849  

Horticulturally speaking Great Britain began life as a Third World country following on from the great Ice Ages. 8000 years ago saw a poor and mean waterlogged landscape holding only about 200 or so sludgy plants which survived the onslaught of the frozen wastes – moss, sedges, ferns, and lichens being the main survivors.

The earliest evidence for the drinking of tea is 2737 B.C in China, it came as it still does from the leaves of the camellia shrub, later known as Camellia sinensis 

Knowing where and when one of your favourite flowers arrived in Britain or where it originally came from is part of the pleasure of gardening. Giving your plant a history can give added delight to all sorts of garden activities; while weeding, clipping or even mowing the lawn, the eye can dwell on a wisteria (originally from China and America) a begonia (a native of South America), or a ceanothus from America. Each of them has a story to tell and a name to unravel.

Wisteria for instance is named in honour of a Professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania, Caspar Wistar who was ‘a philanthropist of simple manners and modest pretensions, but an active promoter of science’ who died in 1818. The plant collector Thomas Nuttall who began life as a printer but spent most of his working life in the USA, dealing with the new horticultural specimens being discovered becoming Curator of the Botanic Gardens at Harvard in 1822. He had known and admired Professor Wistar and so when he came to name the two new climbers (both from America – the other five are natives of China or Japan) he wanted to honour his friend Caspar Wistar. The earliest plant found in 1724 had originally been placed in the large and heterogeneous Glycine but nearly a century later it was considered with seven species discovered it was time to create a new genus, that of ‘Wisteria’.  

Siberia is the ultimate slumbering giant and not the first place you would imagine
gorgeous garden flowers originate, but, take a step back and think about a wedding
you have attended – do you remember seeing a froth of dainty white flowers in any 
of the bouquets?

Well that was probably what is known as 'Baby’s Breath’ or, to a florist, ‘gyp’; Gypsophla!

SIBERIA - Coming in from the Cold

origin of plants, plant names, plant introductions, trees, tree planting, English gardens, origin of British plants, plant world, Mount Edgcumbe,  horticulture, john evelyn, charlemagne, gardening history, british flora The Eden Project, Garden Media Guild, Maggie Campbell Culver, trees
Map of Siberia