Author: Henry NoltiePage 1 of 5

Botanical Drawings made in Nepal for Nathaniel Wallich in 1821 by Vishnupersaud and Gorachand

When the museum and library of the East India Company, following its inheritance by the India Office of the British government, was dispersed in 1879 its fragments were…

Francis Buchanan’s Bengal Survey botanical drawings and specimens reunited after 203 years

Since September I have been working, on and off, on the fantastic collection of Indian botanical drawings at our sister organisation, Kew. This started out when asked to…

Sir Henry Raeburn and Indian Botany

Recently I was looking at the catalogue of the memorable exhibition of Raeburn portraits held in the Royal Scottish Academy in 1997. In it is reproduced a radiant…

The Strange Grotto

The definite article is important: the feature referred to, part of a gigantic designed landscape at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, is romantic rather than peculiar. The…

Early flowering of Prinsepia utilis

  Walking along the path at the foot of the Chinese Hillside last week I noticed that recent clearing has exposed some interesting plants from among the previously…

Bruce’s Abyssinian plants in the Leith Walk Garden

Following some hair-raising adventures, James Bruce of Kinnaird (1730-1794) was the first white Anglo-Saxon Protestant to reach the fountains of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. He discounted the…

On some botanical mondegreens and Hobson-Jobsons

A new word was added to my vocabulary last week, as also a generic usage for one long known to me from Indian pursuits. Curiously these were made…

Coffee and skulldugery in Ceylon, 1796

At the weekend I went to look at the new exhibition on coffee at the John Hope Gateway. The exhibition is borrowed from the Berlin Botanic Garden, but…

William Roxburgh’s herbarium specimens at RBGE

For many years I have been aware that in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (E) is more than one set of specimens collected in South…

How the Grass of Parnassus got its name: a botanical ‘Just So’ story

I was asked this question on a recent trip to North Ronaldsay and had to plead ignorance. We had been discussing a floral display on the local golf…

Another botanical William Jack

One of the most talented Scottish surgeon-botanists ever to have worked in Asia was the Aberdonian William Jack (1795–1822), who, before succumbing to fever aged only 27, acted…

Happy Birthday India: or, the changing names of a Himalayan sumach

How to choose a tree suitable for a High Commissioner of India to plant to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Independence while on a visit to RBGE? Trees,…

Edward Bulkley and the Du Bois Herbarium

In the lead-up (or is it a wind-down?) to retirement I must clear my office, including four herbarium cabinets full of specimens laid aside from time to time…

Ficus benghalensis

1. Ficus benghalensis L. MORACEAE Banyan, बनयान The banyan, a species of wild fig, is one of the most iconic of all Indian trees. Its characteristic appearance as a mature…

Dimocarpus longan

2. Dimocarpus longan Loureiro SAPINDACEAE Longyen, longan; Bengali: ashphal, आशफल A small tree related to the lychee and native of South and South-East Asia. It is cultivated for its…

Leea guineensis

3. Leea guineensis G. Don VITACEAE The name of this genus commemorates James Lee, a Scottish nurseryman, who, with Lewis Kennedy, owned one of the most important of the…

Stephania glandulifera

4. Stephania glandulifera Miers MENISPERMACEAE An extensive climber, which grows from a large tuberous root; it is ‘dioecious’ (having male and female flowers borne on separate plants). This species…

Alpinia zerumbet

5. Alpinia zerumbet (Persoon) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Smith ZINGIBERACEAE Shell ginger It is not certain where this plant was originally native, but somewhere in tropical South or South-East…

Tacca chantrieri

6. Tacca chantrieri André DIOSCOREACEAE One of the so-called ‘bat flowers’, with brownish flowers surrounded by pairs of paler, petal-like bracts and drooping, thread-like bracteoles. This species occurs from…

Tabernaemontana divaricata

7. Tabernaemontana divaricata (L.) R. Brown APOCYNACEAE Crepe jasmine, moonbeam, East Indian rosebay; Hindi: chandani, चांदनी This small tree is native to India but it is widely cultivated…