- Highdown cotoneasters, Worthing Borough Council
'Will the plants be admired or sneered at, or worst fate of all, ignored?'
Frank Kingdon-Ward ‘Romance of Plant hunting’
Scroll below to see some of plant hunters associated with Highdown Gardens. They were part of an exclusive global botanical collecting network. Their work was dangerous and they relied on local hill people to survive. Apart from Ernest Wilson, all these plant hunters were funded by Stern in collectors’ syndicates from 1913 to 1939. Stern also swapped seeds with many collectors including the Messels of Nymans and Lionel de Rothschild at Exbury. Statistics from ‘The Secrets of Great Botanists’ by Matthew Biggs/RHS.
The Local Plant Hunters
Names: Not always recorded
Plant hunting: including India, Himalayas, Myanmar, China and Peru
Background: Local hill people recruited from different ethnic groups to assist the Western plant hunters. The most important person in a plant hunting expedition was a local cook.
Collected: Millions of seeds and pressed plant samples sent to Western collectors, commercial nurseries and botanic gardens.
Highdown plants: See below
Emperor of the Vasculum
Name: Ernest H. Wilson
Plant hunting: 1899 to 1930, in China and Asia
Background: From Gloucester, started as young plant hunter for Veitch Nurseries. Became Assistant Director of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, USA
Collected: 1000 new plants, 100,000 herbarium specimens, 800 images on full-plate camera
Books include: ‘A Naturalist in Western China, with Vasculum, Camera & Gun.’
Highdown plants include: Acer Grisceum, Viburnum betulifoilium, Hydrangea aspera
Prince of Rocks
Name: Reginald Farrer
Plant hunting: 1903 to 1920, in Japan and China
Background: From London/Yorkshire. Frustrated novelist who was regarded as an eccentric horticultural writer and plant hunter
Collected: Many plants including Viburnum fragrans (syn.V.farreri)
Books include: ‘My Rock Garden’ and ‘On the Eaves of the World'
Highdown plants include: Cotoneaster sternianus, Rosa Brunonii, Buddleia farreri
King of Geography
Name: Francis (Frank) Kingdon-Ward
Plant hunting: 1910 to 1953, in Myanmar, India, Nepal, Tibet and China
Background: From London. Bored schoolteacher became expert in Asian geography and botany, with superior survival skills. Regular visitor to Highdown accompanied by second wife the explorer Jean (later Rasmussen)
Plants collected include: famous Tibetan blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia and many Rhododendrons
Books include: ‘Riddle of the Tsango Gorges’
Highdown plants include: Lilium wardii, Colquhounias coccinea, Cotoneaster conspicuus var. decorus
Queen of Succulents
Name: Dora Stafford
Plant hunting: 1930 to 1939, in Peru
Background: From London. Forgotten female botanist and expert high altitude mountain climber
Plants collected: Over a 1000 species and many colour photographs for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1938
Article published: ‘Cacti of Southern Peru’ for the Cactus Journal, Sept 1939
Highdown plants included: Bidens triplinervia and many succulents (including cacti) which have perished
King of Collectors
Name: George Forrest
Plant hunting period: 1904 to 1932, in Yunnan, China
Background: From Scotland. Young chemist transformed into plant hunting entrepreneur. Rival to Kingdon-Ward and Farrer
Plants collected include: 509 rhododendrons, over 50 primulas, thousands of seeds, and 30,000 herbarium specimens
Books published: None
Highdown plants include: Berberis, Roses, Dogwood, Buddleia, Emmenopterys
The range of the mountains is his pasture and he searcheth after every green thing.