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The Explorers

'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 mind who so desperately risk life and everything else through the love of collecting' plants.'

Carl Linnaeus, Glory of the Scientist (1737)

Plant exploration has been going on since before tha dawn of recorded history. These pages start with a general overview of the earliest known expeditions...

The Golden Age of Botany

A time of great adventure and discovery couched in the Age of Reason, a time when Botany was merely a branch of medicine and practiced almost exclusively by doctors and surgeons, and a time when the world was opening up to the concept of scientific discovery.

The defining individual of the 'Golden Age of Botany' would have to be Carl Linnaeus, but there were many who worked on theories that would later influence Linnaeus in developing his system of classification. More

The Wardian Age

An age defined by a deceptively simple invention, a tool that would allow for the transportation of the most delicate plant specimens, for scientific examination and to enhance the collections of wealthy enthusiasts. But an invention that would also allow for the establishment of the tea industry in India, the rubber industry in South East Asia, and the establishment of banana, coffee, citrus, cocoa, and vanilla plantations throughout the world's tropical regions, forever changing the planet. More

The 20th Century

An age of great growth, and of great destruction, a time when humanity began to truely believe that it understood the world around it, yet so often failed to notice that very world slipping away.

'We may well wonder whether there can be any new plant left to be introduced, so great is the variety we possess, and so far afield have collectors searched'

Frank Kingdon-Ward, 1930

When Frank Kingdon-Ward wrote those words a lifetime ago, little did anyone suspect that many new plants were yet to be discovered, and many more would disapear. From the earliest years of the 20th Century the evidence was clear that the race to save endangered species had begun. More


In the Beginning

The period from the earliest recorded plant finding expeditions to the days when the science of botany was first emerging.

It is almost certain that early nomadic peoples valued certain fruit trees they would encounter on their travels, and would likely have 'assisted' the development of groves of these trees to ensure good crops on their seasonal return to the region. Since the production of fruit suitable for human consumption takes considerable resources on the part of the trees, these groves would have occurred in areas where natural resources were already abundant. More

The Botanical Artists
While plants have been portrayed through the ages using simple or stylized drawing methods, the art and accuracy of the botanical artist is a relatively recent development, paralleling the development of the science of botany itself.


Selected by the SciLinks program, a service of
the National Science Teachers Association.
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