Botanical World History: Meet the Plant Hunters with Dr. Toby Musgrave

Botanical World History: Meet the Plant Hunters with Dr. Toby Musgrave


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In 1737, Carl Linnæus, the great Swedish botanist and inventor of the binomial system, exclaimed: “When I consider the melancholy fate of so many of botany’s votaries, I am tempted to ask whether men are in their right mind who so desperately risk life and everything else through the love of collecting plants.”

During the three hundred years hence, a band of forgotten heroes of horticulture - the plant hunters - have discovered and introduced thousands of our favorite garden plants from all corners of the world. Brave and determined, an eclectic group of explorer-botanists traversed what was then remote and often unvisited parts of the world – Western and South America, China and Japan, South East Asia, and the Himalayas – to seek out new and beautiful plants. 

The popular favorites we will explore during our time together include plant families such as these:

Anemones, bamboos, camellias, clematis, ferns, heathers, hostas, iris, jasmine, lilies, orchids, ornamental cherries, maples, pines, primulas, rhododendrons, roses, spruce, and more.

Together we will discover more about these unsung heroes – such as the young botanist who traveled with James Cook’s on a three-year-long circumnavigation of the globe, and collected brand new specimens for study. And that famous voyage’s tie-in to the foundation of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. We will get behind-the-scenes intel on the botanist who first spotted  Himalayan rhododendrons, which would lead to arrest and illegal imprisonment in Sikkim – an event that changed the trajectory of the British Empire. And we’ll meet the first plant hunter to mainland China, who single-handedly fought a gun battle with pirates. 

Led by an expert on plants and garden history, Dr. Toby Musgrave – who has physically followed in the footsteps of many of the plant hunters featured – and designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, this interactive seminar will discuss their pioneering, adventurous, and often downright dangerous work, and present an assortment of their finest plant discoveries.

Dr Toby Musgrave is a foremost authority on the subjects of garden and plant history and design, about which he has authored or co-authored 18 books. Most recently The Garden: Elements and Styles and The Multifarious Mr. Banks. He is part-time Faculty Lecturer at the Danish Institute of Studies Abroad in his adopted country, Denmark, where he teaches American study abroad students. Between semesters he works as a gardens tour leader and as a lecturer aboard small, expedition cruise ships. Additionally, he acts as a consultant to various garden restoration projects and has written numerous articles for a range of magazines and newspapers including The Garden, Gardens Illustrated, The English Garden, Country Life, The TImes, The Telegraph, Haven and Jyllands Posten. His own garden is one of the de Runde Haver and for more information about Toby and his work please visit www.TobyMusgrave.com.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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