Tucked away on a boundary wall near the glasshouses, but not on public display, is one of the oldest living Clematis specimens in our collection. This plant was collected in SW China by the Chinese botantist Te-Tsun Yü (1908 – 1986) during the joint Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh & Arnold Arboretum sponsored expedition in 1937.
Both institutes received shipments of some 2,000 individual seed collections to introduce into cultivation from Yü. The seed was in such abundance that the Arnold Arboretum went on to distribute over 12,000 seed packets from the collection to botanical gardens and institutes in the US and Europe. As well as the seed Yü made over 10,000 herbarium collections during that year in the field, which averaged 50 per day. These again were sent to RBGE and to Arnold Arboretum. A very quick (and not at all comprehensive) survey showed Yü was responsible for the discovery of about 100 species new to science – probably more.
Yü also helped to found the Kunming Institute of Botany (an organisation we still have very close links with) in Yunnan Province, later became Editor of the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae (vol.s 36-38, Rosaceae) and Director of the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
This plant is just another example of the living history that fills our Living Collection and that not all of the great plant hunters were from Europe and the US.