On Saturday I am leading an exhibition tour inspired by the peoples featured in the stunning ‘no strangers’ photograhic exhibition currently on show in the John Hope Gateway until 21st September. The exhibition features diverse cultures from around the world and the captions and catalogue have been writen by Wade Davis, an ethnobotanist whose interest in plants and people extends to their cosmology and spiritual lives. For my tour I have selected cultures that I am personally familiar with through fieldwork or travel, including the Penan from Borneo, Tibetans, Papuans, Australian Aborigines and honey gatherers from West Africa.
Each of these cultures use an impressive diversity of wild plants within their daily lives but I am going to focus on the ‘powerful plants’. The ones that have a wide number of uses or that hold special cultural or spiritual significance. Some of these, like the pandanus of New Guinea, are largely unknown outside the area where they occur naturally while others, like the sacred lotus have become global icons.
The tour will take place in the JHG with the backdrop of the no strangers images. A week later, on 20 September, Fiona Inches and myself will lead a second tour of the RBGE glasshouses which will feature more plants on which indigenous people depend for nourishment – physical and spiritual.

strophanthus 1 Strophanus. A powerful cardiac glycocide used as an arrow poison by the Baka people of Cameroon.