Shareholders in Royal Horticultural Society/Natural History Museum plant hunting expeditions to Nepal

The first serious horticultural and botanical expeditions to take place in Nepal were in 1952 and 1954.  These were joint ventures between The Royal Horticultural Society and the Natural History Museum in London.  Whilst a considerable number of pressed specimens were taken (for depositing in the herbarium at the Natural History Museum, with duplicate specimens being sent to other major herbaria) the main purpose of the expeditions was HORTICULTURAL.  The main UK participants were Polunin, Sykes & Williams (1952) and Stainton, Sykes & Williams (1954); Bill Sykes was the RHS representative, whilst Williams was a botanist at the Natural History Museum.  Oleg Polunin, a botany master at Charterhouse, had already accompanied Bill Tilman on early mountaineering expeditions to Nepal (which opened its borders for official expeditions in the late 1940s).

Funding such major expeditions was exceedingly difficult, so the driving force behind the expeditions, George (later Sir) Taylor deserves our commendation - he was shrewd enough to engage Adam Stainton, a young man of independent means, to join the 1954 expedition, on the basis of paying in full, his share of the costs - which in today's money would run to tens of thousands of pounds.  But even with this windfall, money must have been tight and the long-standing tradition of shareholders paying for a share applied for the 1954.  I do not know how much individuals invested in return for a share of the seed but it would have been modest.  In the hey-day of plant hunting, certain businessmen invested tens of thousands (in today's money) to fund an individual plant hunter's expeditions into China.

I did write articles and visit Wisley to find out what had happened to the introductions from these expeditions, some 40 years later (shall be adding the very limited feed-back I received).  Even with such a major expedition, record-keeping is often poor (even at the major institutions), so all too soon, they rapidly get mixed up.  A complicating factor was that other than the more arid districts of Nepal (close to the border with Tibet), the conditions in most of Nepal (and the Eastern Himalaya in general) are NOT well-suited as a provenance for subsequent cultivation at the RHS HQ at Wisley - particularly for primulas, meconopsis and rhododendrons, desirable though they are ornamentally ...  With a lot of effort, and especially if the material arrived as roots or bulbs (not that there are many bulbous species in the Himalaya), some may have flowered but would not have lasted long.

List of Recipients of Seed from the 1954 S,S&W Expedition to Nepal

1.    Sir Willliam Wright Smith - Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
2.    Lord Aberconway - Bodnant
3.    The Director, RHS Gardens, Wisley
4.    Major Knox Finlay - Keillour Castle
5.    J. Renton Esq. - Branklyn
6.    R. Cooke Esq. - Corbridge, Northumberland
7.    W. Bentley Esq. - Burghclere, Berks
8.    E.B. Anderson Esq. - West Porlock, Somerset
9.    F. Knight Esq. - The Nursery, Woodbridge, Suffolk
10.  E. Savill Esq. - The Great Park, Windsor
11.  Norman Haddon Esq. - Porlock, Somerset
12.  Jack Drake Esq. - Inshriach Alpine Plant Nursery, Aviemore
13.  Dr. H. Dovaston - West of Scotland College of Agriculture, Ayr
14.  David Livingstone Esq. - Carluke, Lanarkshire
15.  W. Hepburn Esq. - Superintendent's Office, Hyde Park
16.  W. Buchanan Esq. - Beasdon, Dumbartonshire
17.  Mrs Berry - Portland, Oregon, USA
18.  Prof. P. Richards - University College North Wales, Bangor
19.  Miss M. Campbell - Natural History Museum, London
20.  The Hon. Lewis Palmer - Headbourne Worthy Grange, Winchester
21.  Lady Evelyn Malcolm - Liphook, Hants
22.  Hon. D. Bowes Lyon - St. Paul's Waldenbury, Herts
23.  A. Johnston Esq. - Invergowrie, Dundee
24.  Mr Maurice Mason - Fincham, Norfolk
25.  A.P. Balfour Esq. -  Lothian Cottage, Slough  This may sound strange but was a trial ground for Sutton Seeds - so there is a tradition of growing Himalayan plants in Slough!
26.  Col. D.G Lowndes - Ringwood, Hants
27.  R. Cooke Esq. - Oorbridge, Northumberland
28.  W. Bentley Esq. - Burghclere, Berks
29.  Miss Goodman - Horsham, Sussex
30.  F. Wood Esq. - Durrington, Sussex
31.  Prof. A Urbain - Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris
32.  Dr. F. Mendenca - Centro de Notanico da JUnta de Investigacces Coloniais, Lisbon, Portugal
33.  Colonel F.C. Stern - Goring-by-Sea, Sussex
34.  Miss Davenport Jones - Hawkhurst, Kent
35.  Capt. Collingwood Ingram - Granbrook, Kent
36.  John Innes Horticultural Institute - Bayfordbury, Herts
37.  Sir William Milner Bt. - Parcevall Hall, Skipton, Yorks
38.  Sir John Ramsden Bt. - Muncaster Castle, Cumberland
39.  Colonel Niall Rankin - House of Treshnish, Isle of Mull, Argyll
40.  Capt. A Walmsley M.C. - Garlieston, Wigtown
41.  P.M. Synge Esq. - c/o RHS, Vincent Square, London
42.  Colonel F.N. Bailey - Cromer, Norfolk
43.  Miss Logan Home - Edrom Nurseries, Coldingham, Berwickshire
44.  Mrs Cicely Crewsdon - Kendal, Westmorland
45.  Andre Harley Esq. - Blinkbonny, Kirkcaldy
46.  T. Hay Esq. - Haslemere, Surrey
47.  F. Wood Esq. - Durrington, Sussex
48.  John Dudley North - Bridgnorth, Salop
49.  Dr C. Fuller - Duryard Grange, Exeter, Devon
50.  The Director - The University Botanic Gardens, Cambridge
51.  Rev. L. Ahrendt - Broughton Rectory, Banbury, Oxon
52.  James Russell Esq. - The Nurseries, Sunningdale, Berks
53.  The Director - Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, Mass., USA
54.  J. Stevenson Esq. - Ascot, Berks
55.  C. B. Cherriff Esq. - Craigmarloch, Kilmalcolm
56.  Major G. Sherriff, Kirriemuir, Angus
57.  M. Williams Esq. - St. Keverne, Cornwall
58.  T. Jackson Esq. - Kitale, Kenya
59.  The Curator - Cheksea Physic Garden, London
60.  Dr D. Humphreys - The General Hospital, Birmingham
61.  R. Masterton - Cluny, Aberfeldy, Perthshire
62.  G. Berry Esq. - Enfield, Middx.
63.  Lady Linlithgow - Hopetown House
64.  Dr. Harry Smith - Universitets Botaniska Museum, Uppsala, Sweden
65.  Mrs Purnell - Birmingham
66.  Mrs Fladk - Beeston, Nottingham
67.  Mrs Ludlow - Hawkchurch, Axminster
68.  The Director - The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park, NY, USA
69.  Dr Charles Baehni - Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques, Geneva, Switzerland
70.  Dr H Lam - Leiden, Holland
71.  Prof. W. Robyns - Jardin Botanique de l'Etat, Brussels, Belgium
72.  W. Th. Ingerwersen - Birch Farm Hardy Plant Nursery, East Grinstead, Sussex
73.  Prof. Lily Newton - Botany Dept. Univsersity Coll. of Wales, Aberystwyth
74.  Edgar Robers - Syston, Leics.
75.  J. Hicks Esq. - Cheltenham, Glos
76.  Fred Meyer - Missouri Botanic Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
77.  Major General D. Murray - Pitlochry, Perthshire
78.  The Curator - Lloyd Botanic Garden, Darjeeling, India
79.  Col. Horlick - Isle of Gigha, Argyllshire
80.  W. Bishop Esq.- Parks Dept., Harrogate, Yorks
81.  Kibble & Clare Ltd. - Ascot Wood Nursery, Ascot
82.  M. Noble - Cairndow, Argyll
83.  Major A. Pam - Broxbourne, Herts
84.  The Hon. Robert James - Richmond, Yorks
85.  Dr. A Lisvey - Dorchester, Dorset
86.  Prof. N. Burgel - Dept. of Botany, The University, Liverpool
87.  Lord Stair - Loch Inch, Wigtownshire
88.  O. Hambro Esq. - Logan House, Wigtownshire
89.  Lord Digby - Cerne Abby, Dorchester
90.  Sir Henry Price - Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, Sussex
91.  The Director, Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin
92.  Hillier & Sons - Winchester, Hants

Comments