Roland Edgar Cooper. Staff Photograph. RBGE Library Archive

Roland Edgar Cooper. RBGE Library Archive

Roland Edgar Cooper was born in 1890 and orphaned at an early age. Once he turned sixteen he came under the guardianship of his aunt Emma Smith, his mother’s half-sister, and her husband, the botanist and future Regius Keeper at RBGE, William Wright Smith.

In 1907 Cooper went to India with his uncle when Smith became Keeper of the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden Calcutta. While in Calcutta, and then later in Lloyd Botanic Garden Darjeeling, Cooper studied botany and horticulture under the tutelage of George Thomas Lane, the then Curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Calcutta. While in India he accompanied his uncle on collecting trips to Sikkim and the borders of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, gaining early experience of the diversity of the Himalaya.

Cooper returned to Scotland in 1910 when Smith was offered a post at RBGE to describe the extensive collections then being received from George Forrest from Yunnan. Cooper’s botanical and horticultural education continued when he signed up to be tutored at the Garden by Isaac Bayley Balfour with the intention of becoming a fruit farmer in British Columbia.

Before finishing his studies he took up a post leading a collecting expedition to Sikkim sponsored by A.K. Bulley of Ness Gardens, with encouragement and support from Smith and Balfour. From his early expeditions to Sikkim, and his studies at RBGE, Cooper was well qualified for this task. The reference that Balfour wrote for Cooper to Bulley sang his praises, citing that he had a good grasp of local Northern Indian dialects and an aptitude for learning languages.

Collecting Trips

Photograph R.E. Cooper taken c. 1913-1916.

Photograph R.E. Cooper taken c. 1913-1916. RBGE Library Archive

Cooper’s collecting trips to Sikkim (1913) Bhutan (1914 & 1915) and finally to the Punjab (in an area now part of Himachal Pradesh) (1916) and later in Burma (1921-22) saw Cooper collect about 6100 numbers. He paid tribute to his team of Lepcha collectors, headed by Rhomoo Lepcha, whom he said contributed greatly to the sucess of his trips.

His collections in Bhutan were some of the earliest from the country and served as an importance resource in the writing of the Flora of Bhutan. Many of his specimens at Edinburgh have been databased and digitised. A few also have associated field images such as Lobelia nubigena. Unfortunately most of Cooper’s early and pioneering images from Bhutan now appear to be lost.

For further information on Cooper’s Bhutanese itineraries see: Long, D.G. 1979 The Bhutanese Itineraries of William Griffith and R.E. Cooper, Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Vol.37(2): 355-368

The Great War (1916–1918)

Lobelia nubigena. Photograph R.E. Cooper. Yato la ridge, Tsonga, Bhutan. 1915 (the Type locality). Archive RBGE

Lobelia nubigena. Photograph R.E. Cooper. Yato la ridge, Tsonga, Bhutan. 1915 (the Type locality). RBGE Library Archive

Cooper cut short his 1916 trip in N.W. India and was commissioned as Lieutenant Roland Edgar Cooper in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, serving initially with the 1st Reserve Ghurkha Rifles on the North West Frontier of India (now in Pakistan). He was later seconded to the 4/3rd Ghurkha Rifles attached to the Royal Flying Corp. and transferred to Alexandria, Egypt, and remained in service there until 1919.

Rangoon (1921–1930)

In 1921, Cooper was appointed by the India Office to be Superintendent of Myamo Botanic Garden in the Shan Hills of Burma; he was the first British-trained officer to hold the post. Cooper also carried out work for the Rangoon Development Trust helping to transfer the Agri-Horticultural Society of Burma to a new site in Rangoon. Once this was completed, he resigned his post with the Government and took up a post with the Society. His trips and collections to the islolated peak of Mt. Victoria served to highlight some of the endemic flora of that mountain.

Edinburgh (1930-1950)

In 1930 Cooper returned to Edinburgh with his family so that his son could benefit from a Scottish education. Cooper’s first job on returning to Scotland was to lay out the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh for its official opening. He then rejoined the RBGE as an Assistant Curator and later, in 1934, became Curator; a post he held until his retirement in 1950. During this time he oversaw the redevelopment of the Rock, Peat and Heath Gardens, as well as the renovation of the Woodland Garden.

During 1931–32 Cooper donated his ethno-anthropological artefacts from Bhutan to the National Museum of Scotland. This donation included: silk scarves, money pouches and coins, prayer flags, a lama’s tiara, saddlebags and a dress. Also, and most impressively, three daggers and a sword that had been given to Cooper by Ugyen Wangchuk, the first King (known by the British as Maharaja) of Bhutan, in 1915.

Cooper with several members of staff and a numbr of others founded the Scottish Rock Garden Club in 1933.

For a fuller article on R.E. Cooper see the SRGC site here.

The RBGE Library Archive hold Cooper’s notesbooks, maps and manuscripts. For a list see here

Living Collection

A handful of Cooper’s original plants still grow in the Living Collections across the four gardens.

RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19150003
Scientific Name:Viburnum grandiflorum Wall. ex DC. forma grandiflorum
Family:Adoxaceae
Genus:Viburnum
Epithet:grandiflorum
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1914
Origin:Thimphu Dist.:Parshong [Barshong]
Elevation:3,810m
Plant:19150003B
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/D03/G050
Plant:19150003H
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/R100/2/C020
Plant:19150003I
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/C14/ZZL060
Plant:19150003G
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150003A
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/F17/B070
Plant:19150003C
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/Q06/2/ZU080
Plant:19150003E
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150003F
Location:/Living Collections/Logan/Z50
Plant:19150003D
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/F01/Z040
19150003_A_1.JPG
19150003_A_2.JPG
19150003_A_3.JPG
19150003_B_5.JPG
19150003_C_1.JPG
19150003_C_3.JPG
19150003_H_1.JPG
19150003_H_2.JPG
19150003_H_3.JPG
19150003_D_2.JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 19150003H Cooper 3023.JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 1915003 Cooper 3023 (2).JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 1915003 Cooper 3023 (5).JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 1915003 Cooper 3023 (7).JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 1915003 Cooper 3023.JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 19150003H Cooper 3023 (2).JPG
19150003_B_1.JPG
19150003_B_2.JPG
19150003_B_3.JPG
19150003_B_4.JPG
19150003_B_5.JPG
19150003_B_6.JPG
19150003_B_7.JPG
19150003_H_1.JPG
19150003_H_2.JPG
19150003_H_3.JPG
19150003_H_4.JPG
19150003_H_5.JPG
19150003_H_6.JPG
00002174.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002175.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002176.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002170.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002171.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002172.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002173.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
00002169.jpg Plant close-up. Viburnum Grandiflorum. ...
19150003_A_1.JPG
19150003_A_2.JPG
19150003_A_3.JPG
19150003_A_4.JPG
Viburnum grandiflorum 19150003A Cooper 3023.jpg
19150003_C_1.JPG
19150003_C_2.JPG
19150003_C_3.JPG
DSC_0346.JPG
DSC_0344.JPG
05194.jpg outdoor photograph of plant Keywords: ...
 Location: 27.700000,89.600000
RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19150028
Scientific Name:Rhododendron maddenii Hook.f. ssp. maddenii
Family:Ericaceae
Genus:Rhododendron
Epithet:maddenii
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1914
Origin:Thimphu Dist.:Chapcha
Elevation:1,829m
Plant:19150028E
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028F
Location:/Living Collections/Benmore/YS5/95
Plant:19150028H
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028D
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028I
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028C
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028B
Location:/Living Collections/Logan/Z01
Plant:19150028M
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028G
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028L
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/G49
Plant:19150028K
Location:/Living Collections/Logan/Z50
Plant:19150028J
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19150028A
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
19150028_H_1.JPG
19150028_H_2.JPG
19150028_H_3.JPG
 Location: 27.216667,89.550000
RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19151004
Scientific Name:Euonymus grandiflorus Wall.
Family:Celastraceae
Genus:Euonymus
Epithet:grandiflorus
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1914
Origin:Thimphu Dist.:Timpu [Thimphu]
Elevation:2,286m
Plant:19151004A
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/BG2/1230
19151004_A_1.JPG
 Location: 27.483333,89.633333
RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19170014
Scientific Name:Rhododendron campanulatum D.Don 'Roland Cooper'
Family:Ericaceae
Genus:Rhododendron
Epithet:campanulatum
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1916
Origin:Himachal Pradesh:Shelimarg
Elevation:4,250m
Plant:19170014A
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/F15/S/ZD075
Plant:19170014B
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19170014E
Location:/Living Collections/Benmore/YH6/1200
Plant:19170014D
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19170014C
Location:/Living Collections/Dawyck/V02
Plant:19170014F
Location:/Living Collections/Benmore/YH6/1010
R. campanulatum 'Roland E. Cooper' Cooper RE 5768 19170014.JPG
R. campanulatum 'Roland E. Cooper' Cooper RE 5768 19170014 (2).JPG
R. campanulatum 'Roland E. Cooper' Cooper RE 5768 19170014 (6).JPG
R. campanulatum 'Roland E. Cooper' Cooper RE 5768 19170014 .JPG
19170014C_3.jpg
19170014C_1.jpg
19170014C_2.jpg
19170014C_4.jpg
 Location: 55.964945333,-3.209395074
 Location: 56.023940288170003,-4.99337279187
 Location: 56.023889272806002,-4.993450712655
RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19644107
Scientific Name:Rhododendron barbatum Wall. ex G.Don
Family:Ericaceae
Genus:Rhododendron
Epithet:barbatum
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1914
Origin:Thimphu Dist.:Parshong [Barshong]
Elevation:3,200m
Plant:19644107A
Location:/Living Collections/Inverleith/W07/P025
Plant:19644107B
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced
Plant:19644107C
Location:/Living Collections/Benmore/YS7/860
19644107_A_2.JPG
19644107C_3.JPG
19644107C_2.JPG
 Location: 27.700000,89.600000

RBGE Living Collections Accession Factsheet
Accession Number:19865014
Scientific Name:Rhododendron campanulatum D.Don ssp. campanulatum
Family:Ericaceae
Genus:Rhododendron
Epithet:campanulatum
Collector:Cooper, Roland Edgar
Year:1916
Origin:Himachal Pradesh:Jaloari Pass
Elevation:3,000m
Plant:19865014A
Location:/Living Collections/Unplaced

Botanical Commemoration

Cooper is remembered through a number of botanical comemorations a number appear still to be valid.

Anaphalis cooperi Grierson & Spring. Edinburgh J. Bot. 57(3): 397 (2000). (ASTERACEAE). Bhutan, Timphu, Parshong [Thimphu District Barshong], 12,500ft, 27 vii 1914, Cooper 1955 (Holotype E, Isotype BM)

Berberis cooperi Ahrendt Gard. Chron. ser. 3, cix. 100 (1941). ; and in Journ. Bot., Lond. lxxix.Suppl., 61 (1941). (BERBERIDACEAE). Bhutan 1914 Cooper 2979 (Holotype? ) [This plant was described from living plants at Glasnevin and in the author’s garden. Herbarium specimens of the cultivated plants grown from Cooper 2979 (E).]

Buddleja cooperi W.W.Sm. Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 10: 14. 1917. (LOGANIACEAE). Bhutan, Rudung La and Pumthang, 11,000ft, 23 vii 1915. Cooper 4154 (Holotype E)
= Buddleja forrestii Diels

Didissandra cooperi Craib. Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 11: 241. 1920 (GESNERIACEAE). Bhutan. Dotena Timphu, 8000ft. Cooper 2508/a. (Type unspecified E)
= Corallodiscus cooperi (Craib) B.L.Burtt.

Cotoneaster cooperi C.Marquand, Hooker’s Icon. Pl. 32: t. 3146. (1930). (ROSACEAE)

Delphinium cooperi Munz J. Arnold Arbor. xlix. 132 (1968) (RANUNCULACEAE). Bhutan, Tsonga, 3 x 1914. Cooper 2294. (Holotype E)

Lactuca cooperi J.Anthony. Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 18: 198. (1934). (ASTERACEAE). India, Sikkim, Kapup. 13,000ft. ix 1913. Cooper 793. (Holotype E)
= Youngia depressa (Hook.f. & Thomson) Babc. & Stebbins

 Lalldhwojia cooperi Farille, Rev. Gén. Bot. 91(1076-78): 31 (1984) (APIACEAE). India, Sikkim, on border with Bhutan. 1 ix 1913. Cooper 772 (Holotype E, Isotype E)
= Lalldhwojia staintonii Farille

Parnassia cooperi W.E.Evans, Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 13: 172. 1921. (PARNASSIACEAE). India, Sikkim, above Toong 10,000ft, 19 ix 1913 Cooper 907. (Holotype E)

Pedicularis cooperi P.C.Tsoong, Kew Bull. 1954, 450 (1954). (OROBANCHACEAE) India, Sikkim, Chola Pass 14,000ft, 16 viii 1913. Cooper 884. (Holotype E & Isotype E)

Poa cooperi Noltie, Edinburgh J. Bot. 57(2):283 (2000). (POACEAE). India, Sikkim Laghep, 10,000ft, 1 vii 1913. Cooper 118 (Holotype E).

Primula cooperi Balf.f., (PRIMULACEAE). India, Sikkim, above Toong, 10,000ft, 25 vii 1913. Cooper 349 (Holotype E)

Rhododendron cooperi Balf.f., Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 10: 91. 1917. (ERICACEAE). Bhutan, Ridang, Angduphorang. 9000ft 8 vi 1915 Cooper 3959 & Bhutan, Vatola Ridge, Tsonga, 9000-10,000ft, 1 vii 1915. Cooper 4083. (Syntype E)

Rosa cooperi Hort., nom. invalid.
= Rosa cv. ‘Cooperi’ (Cooper’s Burma rose)

Other trade names: Rosa gigantea ‘Cooperi’, Rosa laevigata ‘Cooperi’, Rosa x cooperi, Rosa ‘Cooper’s Burma’, Rosa ‘Gigantea Cooperi’

The name Rosa cooperi, as far as I can tell, was never validly published in accordance with botanical nomenclatural rules – no description or preserved specimens cited. There are a number of references to this name relating to the plant in cultivation (Bunyard, 1938; Johnson, 1952; Cooper, 1953 & 1953a; Bean, 1981). There are no specimens of this preserved in the RBGE herbarium. The plant seems to be relatively generally available in the trade, with nine nurseries listed in the RHS Plant Finder as selling Cooper’s Rose.

Rubus cooperi D.G.Long, Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 44(2): 259. (1987). (ROSACEAE). Bhutan, Mongar District, Sawang, 4 Aug 1915, 9000ft Cooper 4344 (Holotype E, Isotype BM).

Scrophularia cooperi R.R.Mill, Edinburgh J. Bot. 57(3): 424. 2000 (SCROPHULARIACEAE). Bhutan, [Thimphu/Phunakha districts: Dochung La]: Duké La, 8000ft, 17 Aug 1914, Cooper 3361 (Holotype BM, Isotype E).

Sedum cooperi Praeger J. Bot. 57: 49. (1919). (CRASSULACEAE). Bhutan 13,000ft. Cooper 3517. (Holotype ?).
= Rhodiola bupleuroides (Wall. ex Hook.f. & Thomson) S.H.Fu

Material for this name was based on living specimens that flowered in Glasnevin and in Praeger’s garden. There is a field collected specimen at E from the 3517 collection. However this name is a homonym of an earlier Sedum cooperi Clemenc published in 1868 and is therefore is therefore invalid. The replacement name to correct this mistake is Sedum bhutanicum Praeger